Toyota has announced its intention to build the ultimate SUV: a space utility vehicle.
The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has ambitions of making a moon landing by 2029 and it requires a vehicle for astronauts to drive on the surface, as they range about and conduct research.
As Japan’s largest automotive company, Toyota was an obvious candidate for this project and has revealed initial renderings of what it is working on for JAXA.
Requirements are strict and call for a pressurised vehicle, capable of travelling vast distances while supporting two astronauts within its cabin. That last detail means that Toyota’s engineers will have to find extremely clever packaging solutions for the moon rover’s interior, as astronauts move about with their space suits on.
Toyota’s moon rover doesn’t yet have a name, but the company has alluded to some specifications. It will be powered by fuel-cells and have a driving range of 10 000 km. The interior will also feature 13m² of work and living floor space. In terms of overall size, Toyota says the project specification is for a vehicle 6 m in length, 5.2 m wide and 3.8 m tall.
From the images Toyota has revealed of its first concept rendering, we can deduce that the Japanese moon rover will also be six-wheel drive and features very interesting tyre and wheel technology.
Traditional pressured rubber tyres would not work on the moon and Toyota appears to be opting for a one-piece wheel design, where the entire structure is metal and designed in a way to allow for some flex.
A large deployable solar panel, using the latest solar energy harvesting technology, should help the Toyota moon rover to augment its on-board fuel-cell provided range. The last vehicle to drive on the moon was back in 1972 and was extremely limited in range. With Toyota’s moon rover, the expectation is that it will allow for unprecedented exploration of the moon surface.