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Toyota rover

Toyota rover

Life to imitate sci-fi on the moon

The world’s largest car-maker has a contract with Nasa to produce a lunar rover for America’s next generation of astronauts, and it plans to use solar-powered fuel cells to propel it. The technology is simple but its use on the moon is almost poignant. During the long lunar day, power from the panels will electrolyse water from ice in the moon’s crust to produce hydrogen and oxygen. That hydrogen will be fed through fuel cells to produce H+ ions (which could recombine with the oxygen to produce more water) and free electrons, otherwise known as electricity. For decades, Toyota dreamed of mass-producing fuel cell-powered cars on earth, but hydrogen manufacture and storage proved too costly. Now it will make precisely one fuel-cell powered vehicle as part of Japan’s contribution to Nasa’s Artemis mission to the moon. In a sense, life is imitating sci-fi. Toyota is the named manufacturer of giant lunar mining vehicles in Andy Weir’s Artemis, a moon-based fellow-up to The Martian. Note to Ken Yamashita, Toyota’s head of lunar exploration: all those vehicles are blown up or sabotaged.

Photograph Toyota