Toyota has revealed that it is in talks with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) about the possibility of collaborating on international space exploration.
The two organisations have already penned an agreement to further co-operate on and accelerate their ongoing joint study of a manned, pressurised rover that is claimed to employ fuel cell electric vehicle technologies.
Measuring 6.0 metres long, 5.2 metres wide and 3.8 metres tall, which is roughly the size of two minivans, the concept rover offers a living space of 13 m³ and is capable of accommodating two people – or four in the case of an emergency.
Even with the limited amount of energy that can be transported to the moon, Toyota’s engineers say the rover will also be capable of delivering a total lunar surface cruising range of “more than 10,000 km”. It will additionally feature remote operation or autonomous driving functionality.
“Manned, pressurised rovers will be an important element supporting human lunar exploration, which we envision will take place in the 2030s. We aim at launching such a rover into space in 2029,” says Hiroshi Yamakawa, president of JAXA. “Lunar gravity is one-sixth of that on Earth. The moon has a complex terrain with craters, cliffs, and hills. Moreover, it is exposed to radiation and temperature conditions that are much harsher than those on Earth, as well as an ultra-high vacuum environment. For wide-ranging human exploration of the moon, a pressurised rover that can travel more than 10,000 km in such environments is a necessity.”
“As an engineer, there is no greater joy than being able to participate in such a lunar project by way of Toyota’s car-making and, furthermore, by way of our technologies related to electrified vehicles, such as fuel cell batteries and our technologies related to autonomous and automated driving,” adds Toyota boss, Akio Toyoda. “Fuel cells, which use clean power-generation methods, emit only water, and, because of their high energy density, can provide a lot of energy, making them especially suited for the project being discussed with JAXA.”