Owners will tell you that Toyota’s venerable FJ-Series Land Cruiser has a reputation for off-road 4×4 prowess in any kind of terrain or weather conditions — but what about off-planet adventures?
Back in 2019, Toyota and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced plans for a hydrogen fuel-cell lunar rover.
According to Green Car Reports, the vehicle now has a name — the Toyota Lunar Cruiser.
The name, of course, is a reference to the popular Toyota Land Cruiser SUV. The Lunar Cruiser’s grille also looks influenced by the classic FJ-Series Land Cruiser.
The moniker “was chosen because of the familiar feeling it offers the people involved in the development and manufacture of the vehicle prototype as part of the joint research project as well as the familiarity it will provide the general public.”
But this lunar rover is designed to boldly go where no Land Cruiser has gone before.
While the current Land Cruiser can seat up to seven people, the Lunar Cruiser will only have room for two astronauts, the report said. They will get a more comfortable ride than their predecessors, however.
Unlike the rovers used during the Apollo lunar missions, the Lunar Cruiser will have an enclosed, pressurized, cabin, so astronauts can drive it without space suits.
When the project was first announced, Toyota said the rover would be able to operate on the moon for up to six weeks, with a range of 1,000 kilometers (about 621 miles) per tank of hydrogen, which is roughly the equatorial circumference of the moon, the report said.
Solar panels will provide supplementary electricity.
Toyota previously said a fuel-cell powertrain was the right choice because it would be one fifth the mass and about 20% smaller in volume than a comparable battery-electric powertrain — an important consideration when everything needs to be launched to the moon via rocket.
As an added benefit, water produced by the fuel cells can be used for cooling equipment or drinking, Toyota has said.
In its 2019 proposal, Toyota said hydrogen and oxygen for the fuel cells would initially be brought to the moon from Earth, the report said.
Later, water found on the moon could be used to produce hydrogen through electrolysis, with solar panels providing the electricity, the automaker said.
Toyota and JAXA expect to launch the Lunar Cruiser in the latter half of this decade, the report said.
Right now, they’re busy making test parts for the rover and performing simulations on power and heat dissipation performance while the rover is in operation.
Making this ambitious goal a reality will almost certainly require international cooperation — with NASA, for example, which is working toward the same aim with its Artemis program.
The Lunar Cruiser could play an integral role in the expansion of human society to the moon. For example, the vehicle could help astronauts explore the lunar polar regions for water ice and other resources, Toyota officials said.