The arrival of hydrogen cars on UK roads is a step closer, according to the business minister Matthew Hancock, after he announced up to £11m of funding.

The investment is intended to prepare the UK for the roll-out of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs), and will be used help establish an initial network of up to 15 hydrogen refuelling stations by the end of 2015, and includes £2m of funding for public sector hydrogen vehicles.

Hancock said the initiative was part of the UK government’s drive to become a global leader in ultra-low emission vehicles and follows news earlier this month that Toyota has chosen the UK as one of the first markets for its FCEV when it goes on sale next year.

Speaking in Japan where he met executives at Honda, Nissan and Toyota, Hancock said: “Britain has become one of the best places in the world to build cars, with the value of those we export outstripping imports for the first time in a generation, but we want to go further.

“Hydrogen cars present us with a huge economic opportunity and can bolster our internationally renowned automotive industry. We want to make the UK one of the best places in the world to design, manufacture and sell ultra-low emission vehicles.

“Government will work in true partnership with industry so the potential benefits are realised by businesses and consumers across the UK.”

Transport minister Baroness Kramer said: “By 2040 all new cars and vans will be ultra-low emission vehicles and this could be delivered by a variety of technologies, including plug-in hybrids, pure EVs and hydrogen. We want to ensure that support is there for all of these vehicles and that the UK continues to lead the pack in providing the right infrastructure to drive the switch to electric.”