Japanese giants Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. Ltd. kicked off the world’s move to environmentally friendly fuel cell-powered travel yesterday with the leasing of commercial vehicles to the Japanese government.

Toyota will lease four sport-utility style vehicles to the cabinet office, the trade ministry, the transport ministry and the environment ministry. The vehicles seat five and have a range of 300 kilometres on one tank of hydrogen. Honda will lease one passenger car to the cabinet office.

Both companies plan to expand the commercial availability of fuel cell automobiles, but their high cost could stall widespread adoption.

Toyota will charge the Japanese government ¥1.2-million (about US$9,800) a month for each vehicle for a 30-month contract. Honda will charge ¥800,000 (about US$6,400) a month for a 12-month contract.