Yes, a Toyota will really drive on the lunar surface.
Last year, Toyota announced a somewhat unusual new project that is truly out of this world. The automaker reached an agreement with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to jointly develop a human-operated lunar rover vehicle utilizing fuel cell electric technologies. Several images of what the vehicle could look like were released, but there was still one essential thing missing: a name. Today, this has been resolved.
Toyota and JAXA have announced their jointly-developed moon vehicle is called the Lunar Cruiser. Well, actually it's just a nickname but its origin couldn't be more obvious. The Toyota Land Cruiser is quite possibly the automaker's most famous vehicle and nameplate, having been in existence since 1951.
The latest generation, pictured below, has been around since 2007 but a complete redesign is just around the corner. The Lunar Cruiser name was also chosen "because of the familiar feeling it offers the people involved in the development and manufacture of the vehicle prototype… as well as the familiarity it will provide the general public."
Like the Earth-only Land Cruiser, the Lunar Cruiser aims to have rock-solid (literally) quality, durability, and reliability. But there are many key differences between the two vehicles. Obviously we don't need to name them all, but Lunar Cruiser isn't powered by an internal combustion engine but rather electric fuel cell technology with the aim of achieving a cruising range of over 6,200 miles.
And, of course, the Lunar Cruiser will be pressurized inside to keep its passengers alive and healthy. Size-wise, it'll be comparable to two microbuses and will even offer living accommodation for up to four people.
At present, Toyota and JAXA are busy building test parts for the first prototype vehicle through the use of simulations to make sure there's enough power and heat dissipation performance while driving. The tires are another key challenge because they must be able to handle all sorts of rough and rocky lunar terrain. Virtual reality and full-scale models are being utilized to figure out the cabin's layout and where all of the necessary equipment needs to go.
If all goes to plan, JAXA's goal is to blast off to the moon with the Lunar Cruiser in hand in the second half of this decade.