Research conducted on the fuel cell vehicle could benefit future hydrogen-powered road cars.
When you're as big and monied as Toyota, the world is your oyster. The automotive giant doesn't only attract the world's most loyal car buyers but was also 2021's most searched car brand. A wide range gives buyers plenty of choices, from compact, budget-friendly alternatives to cutting-edge hydrogen-fuelled cars like the Toyota Mirai.
Pleased with its work on planet Earth, the Japanese giant has looked to the moon as its next target. Together with JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), Toyota has been hard at work researching a pressurized rover, known as the Lunar Cruiser. Developing a car for everyday road use is challenging enough, but when it's designed to explore the moon, it's an entirely different prospect.
There are some benefits to the research, though, with Toyota noting technology developed for lunar exploration can be put to use back on the Blue Planet, to "create better vehicles and develop technologies for [a] sustainable society and the planet."
As the Lunar Cruiser will make use of fuel cell electric technology, this can only mean one thing: Toyota isn't giving up on hydrogen just yet. The brand has been reticent to adopt fully electric vehicles, only doing so recently with the bZ4x crossover. But through the aforementioned Mirai and its clever hydrogen-powered V8, the carmaker is clearly unwilling to give up on alternative energy sources.
"We will contribute to this endeavor by offering the reliability, durability, driving performance, and FC (fuel cell) technology that Toyota has cultivated through long years of vehicle development," said the brand. While we're all for electric vehicles, any sensible effort to possibly save the internal combustion engine gets the stamp of approval from us.
But how would it work? Toyota doesn't give too much away, but it's clear that the market leader in hydrogen is hoping to glean plenty of insight into fuel cell technology which will, hopefully, give buyers more choice in a mostly electric future.
A video posted by the automotive giant previews the excellent capabilities of the lunar rover. Known as the Small Pressurized Rover Prototype, the compact vehicle looks nothing like the concept seen above but shows plenty of promise. As Toyota explains, the moon's surface has just one-sixth the gravity we're used to on earth and experiences extreme temperatures.
As such, it needs to be a hugely competent vehicle. The video above demonstrates how the prototype can steer all four wheels in the same or opposite direction, as well as use the brakes to change direction. This will be useful on the moon, where the vehicle will have to dodge hazardous obstacles.
It's great that Toyota is thinking about its customers back on Earth and hoping to utilize the undoubtedly expensive fuel cell research and implement it in road-going vehicles. But while the company is at it, it would be fantastic to see its range of off-roaders adopt some of the features of the Small Pressurized Rover Prototype.