The Japanese government plans to aggressively promote hydrogen fuel-cell cars, by easing regulations related to the technology, constructing more fueling stations, and boosting incentives.
It's a move also intended to encourage widespread use of fuel cells beyond the automotive sector.
The plan to ease fuel-cell rules was discussed by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe after a test drive of the 2016 Toyota Mirai hydrogen car at his official residence, according to Bloomberg.
Abe also called for construction of a network of self-service hydrogen fueling stations in the country, though he didn't discuss specifics or a timeframe for either plan.
2016 Toyota Mirai
Still, the prime minister's officially expressed enthusiasm for hydrogen is noteworthy. He said he wanted "all ministries and agencies to have" fuel-cell cars.
Abe has prevoiusly said Japan will create a "hydrogen society" where fuel cells power homes and office building, as well as cars.
Japan already offers incentives for Toyota's Mirai that are much greater than any offered for battery-electric cars in China, Europe, or the U.S.
Buyers in some areas can get about 3 million yen ($25,500) in subsidies for the Toyota, which went on sale in Japan last month at a price of 7.24 million yen (roughly $68,000) before incentives.
2016 Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell car, Newport Beach, CA, Nov 2014
That amount is more than triple the 950,000 yen ($8,136) in incentives offered for the Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric car in Japan, not to mention the $7,500 Federal tax credit offered for electric cars in the U.S.
The subsidies seem to be working in Toyota's favor, at least thus far: The company has reportedly received 1,500 orders for the 2016 Mirai in Japan, compared to an original target of 400 sales by the end of this year.
However, about 60 percent of those orders are from government agencies and corporate fleets--which don't have to rely as heavily on public fueling stations.
The announcement by the Japanese prime minister comes just two days after Tesla Motors CEO Musk responded to a question on Toyota's initiative in fuel-cell vehicles.
"If you're gonna pick an energy storage system," Musk told the Automotive News World Congress in Detroit, "Hydrogen is a dumb one."
North American Toyota executive Bob Carter had described the company's plans for the 2016 Toyota Mirai, and its financial support for hydrogen fueling sites in California, at another event earlier the same day.