Toyota Motor Corp. said Saturday it is conducting trials of a vehicle powered by a hydrogen engine in Australia, making it the Japanese automaker's first such test of the environmentally friendly car on public roads toward its commercial use.

In the trial from late October through January, a specially modified van from Toyota's HiAce series is being used by local construction and security firms to confirm the vehicle's operability and durability on roads in the suburbs of Melbourne.

The move came as Toyota seeks to popularize hydrogen as a cleaner alternative to fossil fuels. It put a liquid hydrogen engine car into a 24-hour endurance race in central Japan in May, making it the first such car in the world to participate in an official race.

Toyota Motor Corp. unveils a new hydrogen-fueled model of the Hiace commercial vehicle at Fuji Speedway in Oyama in Shizuoka Prefecture, central Japan, on Nov. 11, 2023. The new model already started test runs on public roads in Australia for commercialization. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

The testing of the HiAce vehicle that will run on gaseous hydrogen in Australia is intended to "hone hydrogen engine technology refined through motorsports even further towards practical application," Toyota said in a press release.

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles that are already in commercial use are powered by electric motors, while hydrogen engine cars are seen to have an advantage as they have many parts in common with gasoline engine cars.

Australia is a hydrogen-abundant country and is also active in using the energy source.

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