Toyota Motor has unveiled its ambitious plans to power a manned lunar rover, dubbed the Lunar Cruiser, using regenerative fuel cell technology, with the aim of eventually utilizing the moon’s water ice as an energy source. The move comes as Japan ramps up its space ambitions, participating in NASA’s Artemis program and planning to station an astronaut at the lunar space station called Gateway in the latter half of the 2020s.
Since 2019, Toyota has been collaborating with Japan’s space agency to develop the Lunar Cruiser, which they hope to deploy on the moon by 2029. The goal is to conduct long-term and stable research on the lunar surface, sourcing various items on-site over an extended period. NASA expects Japan to contribute a lunar rover to the Artemis program with a targeted launch date in 2029.
The regenerative fuel cell technology in the Lunar Cruiser works by utilizing solar energy and water to produce hydrogen and oxygen through electrolysis during daylight hours. The fuel cells then use this stored energy to supply electricity during the lunar night, which lasts about 14 Earth days, allowing the rover to operate continuously even in darkness and extreme cold.
Toyota aims to secure an order for the manned lunar rover by the autumn of next year. The vehicle is designed to carry two astronauts for 42 days a year on a mission and remain operational for ten years. Moreover, Toyota envisions the possibility of extending the lunar rover’s lifespan beyond the ten-year mark if a sustainable water supply arrangement can be established.
However, Toyota acknowledges that obtaining water for the fuel cells from the moon’s ice water or mining it on its own may not be immediately feasible. Therefore, they anticipate relying on other companies or future developments to supply the water needed for sustained rover operations.
With this innovative regenerative fuel cell technology, Toyota aims to contribute significantly to lunar exploration, advancing human knowledge and capabilities in space research and paving the way for potential future missions beyond our planet.
By Impact Lab