Nissan, Toyota, Honda, and Mitsubishi agreed to share costs to help build an additional 12,000 charging stations - including 4,000 fast-charging points - they said in a statement Monday, without specifying a timeframe. Japan now only has about 4,700 chargers, a third of which are of the rapid variety, which is generally seen as insufficient, they said.
Japanese automakers have led the auto industry in production of low- and zero-emission vehicles in recent years, though electric cars have struggled to catch on because of issues including higher prices and range anxiety. More recently, competition has been intensifying, with Model S-maker Tesla Motors last month unveiling a system that can replace a depleted car battery in 90 seconds - faster than it takes to fill up the tank in a gasoline car.
"Japanese auto manufacturers have been global leaders in developing and commercializing electric vehicles," said Ali Izadi-Najafabadi, a Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst in Tokyo. "To achieve higher volume sales, manufacturers need to address the higher initial cost and the perceived limitations of electric vehicles, particularly driving range."
The most common type of fast charger in Japan is called CHAdeMO, which can charge electric cars within 30 minutes.
Sales of electric vehicles, including those that have a small backup gasoline tank like the Chevrolet Volt, will probably increase more than 80 percent to 225,000 units this year, according to estimates at Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
Japan ranked second behind the United States in terms of electric- vehicle sales during the first half and led the world in terms of regular hybrid-vehicle sales amid the popularity of Toyota's Prius cars, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
In terms of infrastructure, Japan had the third-highest number of regular electric-vehicle charging stations during the first quarter, behind China and the U.S., while ranking second behind China in the number of fast chargers, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Toyota, maker of the Prius, is the top producer of gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles though it lags behind Leaf- maker Nissan in electric vehicle sales.
Japanese automakers are also seeking to expand the number of charging stations after the government set aside 100.5 billion yen ($1 billion) to subsidize new electric chargers.
Aside from sharing costs, the four Japanese carmakers said they plan to jointly promote installations of chargers, develop ways of making the charging stations more convenient to use and work with the government, according to today's statement.