Virgin Atlantic will offer upper class passengers a chance to travel to the airport in zero emission cars powered by hydrogen as part of its limousine pick up service in Los Angeles.

The service will begin immediately with use of three Chevrolet Equinox hydrogen fuel-cell cars.

Virgin chair Sir Richard Branson called on governments, especially the UK’s, to encourage petrol stations to offer hydrogen and other alternative fuels. He said the car cannot be introduced in the UK until the government acts. Hydrogen is already available at petrol stations in Los Angeles and New York.

Branson said: “This technology will only become commonplace if businesses and drivers are incentivised to adopt it. Government needs to play a major role.”

In a trial, Virgin Atlantic will operate three of the hydrogen cars in its limousine fleet of 12 in Los Angeles. Branson said he hoped the entire fleet would run on hydrogen if the trial is a success.

Following the successful trial of a biofuel on a flight between Heathrow and Amsterdam last week, Branson said Virgin Atlantic would trial an algae based fuel as soon as possible.Virgin also announced a $2.6bn order of Rolls Royce engines to power its fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners due to be delivered from 2011.