Fuel cells on the moon
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Toyota have presented a concept for a new type of Lunar Rover aimed at a possible explorative expedition to the moon in 2030. The exciting thing is that Toyota is looking at using hydrogen fuel cell technology in the drivetrain.
Fuel cells in space
Although fuel cells have been used in space exploration for over five decades, they’ve been based on an older technology called alkaline fuel cells. This would be the first time that hydrogen gas is used as a fuel and it would represent a breakthrough for the technology if it’s implemented.
The fuel cell could provide multiple essential functions. Not only would it power the electric motors and the electronic systems of the rover, but it could also provide heating for the crew (the far side of the moon can be a pretty cold place as we all know). And the water created by the fuel cell’s chemical reaction could potentially be electrolyzed back into hydrogen and oxygen using the rover’s solar panels. Not quite a perpetuum mobile but pretty close!
The lunar surface is littered with rock debris, craters, and steep hills. Even though gravity is only a sixth of what we experience here on earth, the rover has to be able to operate in a pretty hostile environment. JAXA also want their astronauts to be able to explore a vast swath of the moon’s surface, and the range required for the rover is pegged at over 10.000 kilometers. With this type of fuel mileage, the astronauts would be able to circumnavigate the whole moon without refueling. Maybe they could drive by the old Apollo 11 landing site and snap some selfies to put all the conspiracy theories to rest at last?
Toyota takes the lead
Toyota is one of the world’s leaders in fuel cell technology, and this would be an excellent showcase for clean and powerful fuel cell technology. But similar to the old Apollo missions, space exploration tends to drive innovation down here on earth, and hopefully, important discoveries can be made which will help humankind save our own blue planet. At Cell Impact we firmly believe in an emissions-free future, and we’re proud to be a small part of the fuel cell revolution.
Read Toyotas press release for more information.