Toyota truly wants to reach for the stars, literally.
Toyota Motor Corporation and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have officially signed an agreement that will see them build an exploration vehicle that will be sent to the moon.
“At JAXA we are pursuing international co-ordination and technological studies towards Japan’s participation in international space exploration. We aim to contribute through leading Japanese technologies which can potentially generate spin-off benefits. Having Toyota join us in the challenge of international space exploration greatly strengthens our confidence,” said Hiroshi Yamakawa, JAXA president.
In addition Yamakawa said that manned rovers will play an important role in a fully-fledged exploration on the moon. With Toyota leading the way in development, JAXA is confident that the automaker will be able to deliver a vehicle fit for moon exploration.
The lunar rover will be a man-operated, pressurized vehicle that is capable of accomodating two people (four in an emergency). It will measure 6 meters long, 5.2 meters wide and stand at 3.8 meters tall. This puts the proposed rover along the size of a small coach bus.
As to what will power the lunar rover, Toyota is looking at using hydrogen fuel cells as they are clean sources of energy that only emit water as its byproduct. Not only that, Toyota claims that fuel cells have a higher energy density than other types of fuel source. This will allow the lunar rover to have a range of over 10,000 km, which is nearly enough for the manned vehicle to drive around the moon's equatorial 10,916 km circumference.
“Fuel cell electric vehicles have the ability to emit reduced amounts of harmful substances, such as particulate matter, that are found in the air they take in. As such, they are characterised by having so-called ‘minus emissions’3. We want to further improve on this characteristic,” said Shikegi Terashi, Toyota executive vice president.
There is no word yet, however, as to when Toyota and JAXA plan on sending the fully-built rover to the moon. With no definite timeline yet, we'll have to wait and see how will it progress.