Toyota Considering New SUV – for the moon!

March 19, 2019 by John O'Dell

Toyota already makes a dozen SUVs and crossovers – what’s one more?

This one could be the most complex yet. The automaker is working with Japan’s national space agency to develop a new moon rover.

A manned moon rover – with a fully enclosed, pressurized cabin. Likely with 4-wheel drive (maybe even 6-wheel drive – it’s got that many) and definitely using Toyota’s hope for the fuel of the future – a hydrogen fuel cell propulsion system.

‘SHOOTING FOR THE MOON’

“I guess you could say they’ve really gone over the top and are shooting for the moon,” quipped Antti Lindstrom, a transportation analyst at IHS Markit.

Toyota lunar rover

Screen capture from a promotional video shows Toyota fuel-cell moon rover underway on lunar surface. (Photo: Toyota)

The automaker is working with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, on development of a manned rover for the moon – maybe even elsewhere.

If mankind ever gets beyond its home system with manned missions to other planets, there could be some extra sales. JAXA certainly thinks so.

“Manned rovers with pressurized cabins are an element that will play an important role in full-fledged exploration,” the agency said. Notice the use of the plural “rovers.”

Toyota and JAXA disclosed that they have been working on the project for almost a year and have come up with a proposal for a concept vehicle that would be the size of a large and extremely tall SUV: 12 feet tall, 17 feet wide and almost 20 feet long.

It would ride on six tall, wide and knobby low-profile tires and would have a deployable solar panel to provide extra energy.

6,200-MILE RANGE

Its range is estimated at 6,200 miles – 586 miles short of a full circumnavigation of the moon. After that, someone would have to bring either a new rover or a new load of hydrogen to the lunar surface.

Toyota lunar rover

Toyota’s proposed lunar rover would ride on six tires and have a deployable solar panel for extra energy. (Concept art: Toyota)

The rover wouldn’t share any of Toyota’s earthbound design features – except perhaps the familiar Ellipses logo and a Toyota badge on whatever passes for the vehicle’s grill. It would resemble a large box. Although some might say that’s a description of an earthbound SUV, too.

It would have 459 cubic feet of capacity – enough for two people and their necessary gear in normal exploration circumstances or for four people in an emergency. It has more than twice the interior volume of a 2019 Toyota Sequoia, the company’s largest land-bound SUV.

Undoubtedly thinking of his company’s reputation for safety – and of future marketing slogans – Toyota President Aiko Toyoda said of the rover project that cars today have an active role in making sure the people in them come home alive, “and I think that coming back alive is exactly what is needed in this project.”

One thing a successful program would help is Toyota’s push to popularize hydrogen as a transportation fuel.

The company already markets a hydrogen fuel-cell passenger car, the Mirai, and is developing a fuel-cell heavy-duty truck.

Sebastian Blanco March 4, 2019
VW’s new MEB-based concept vehicle, the ID. Buggy, offers zero-emissions off-road fun with more than a few nods to 1960s beach culture.

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