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

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

The move came as Toyota seeks to popularize actual hydrogen gas as a cleaner alternative to fossil fuels. It entered 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.

The testing of the HiAce vehicle in Australia is intended to "hone hydrogen engine technology refined through motorsports even further toward its practical application (commercially)," Toyota said in a news 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.