General Motors and FedEx Corporation marked a first in Japan on Wednesday by delivering packages in a fuel-cell vehicle (FCV) — the first approved for commercial use in the country, Reuters reported.
As part of the Japanese government’s initiative to explore the viability of FCVs, the vehicle maker and the delivery firm will operate GM’s HydroGen3 vehicles on FedEx Express’s regular routes in Tokyo, the report said.

According to Reuters, Toyota and Honda were first to put the no-emissions vehicles on the road last year, but their FCVs have only been leased out to ministries and other public agencies due to the vehicles’ steep price tag.

The first commercial use of an FCV, which runs on hydrogen and only emits water as a by-product, has huge implications for the future, GM and FedEx reportedly said.

“In addition to giving General Motors lots of data from how fuel cell technology handles in real world situations, it’s also another step toward true commercialisation — when fuel cell vehicles can be sold to consumers at prices they can afford and auto companies make a profit from them,” GM said, according to the Reuters reported.

The news agency noted that the two US companies have no similar alliance elsewhere in the world.

According to the report, GM said that by storing liquid hydrogen on board the vehicle, the HydroGen3 can run for 400 kilometres (250 miles) before refuelling, about 100 km more than Honda and Toyota FCVs.

The Japanese government wants to lay the groundwork for full commercialisation of FCVs by 2005, with the aim of having five million of the vehicles on the road by 2020, Reuters noted, adding that vehicle makers have said that commercialisation could take longer due to high development costs and lack of infrastructure, such as hydrogen fuelling stations.