After Dominating Car Sales on Earth Toyota Is Turning to Space
Toyota is a global automotive powerhouse and dominates the sales charts seemingly wherever its models are sold, which happens to be a staggering 170-plus countries. Perhaps Toyota still isn’t content with its global domination as the automaker is now looking to the final frontier, space, with a concept car for the cosmos.
Toyota debuts the ‘Baby Lunar Cruiser’
California-based CALTY Design Research serves as the American wing for Toyota’s design network, and to celebrate its 50th year, the group has unveiled a moon-traversing concept car dubbed the Toyota Baby Lunar Cruiser.
Toyota says the Baby Lunar Cruiser is inspired by the Lunar Cruiser currently being developed by Toyota and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), effectively the Japanese equivalent to NASA. The Lunar Cruiser is a pressurized, six-wheeled, hydrogen-fuel-cell powered rover that “would make it possible to carry out crewed exploration activities on the surface of the moon.”
Apparently having some fun with the idea of traversing on the moon, the Baby Lunar Cruiser is a smaller concept that draws inspiration from the Lunar Cruiser with styling that invokes the original FJ40 Land Cruiser.
The concept features “the futuristic capabilities of an interplanetary exploration vehicle” and is figuratively propelled by electric motors placed inside the wheels and controlled by dual joysticks. It features a glass canopy, airless tires, a “full array of cameras and lidar/radar sensors” and a dashboard display with augmented reality. Also inside are “highly adjustable spaceframe seats” and MOLLE panels to outfit the cabin as needed for various moon-cruising missions.
There’s also some heritage nods to the FJ40, including Toyota script on the front “fascia” and a split tailgate. The apparent two-tone paint job and boxy bodywork above the rear wheels is also reminiscent of the defunct FJ Cruiser.
Could the Baby Lunar Cruiser concept become a reality?
While the Baby Lunar Cruiser is an interesting concept, it’s almost guaranteed to remain just that—a conceptual design. CALTY has been directly involved in the design of plenty of real-world and Earth-traversing Toyota models—including the 2024 Land Cruiser, Tacoma and Grand Highlander, plus a host of concept cars—but it’s difficult to imagine the Baby Lunar Cruiser is anything more than a bit of fun.
That, and it can serve as a marketing tool to remind the automotive world Toyota does have a hand in creating an actual lunar vehicle with JAXA.
Work on the actual Lunar Cruiser began when JAXA and Toyota partnered in 2019 to create the lunar vehicle. To note, the official name for the vehicle is a “crewed pressurized rover,” but the nickname Lunar Cruiser was chosen as a nod to the Land Cruiser.
The joint research phase was completed in 2022, Toyota said, and the company is currently in its “preliminary development phase” with development of the actual vehicle set to start in 2024. The JAXA/Toyota partnership has now extended to include Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
The research and development of the Lunar Cruiser has been spearheaded by the anticipated participation in NASA’s Artemis program for human exploration of the moon and Mars. As such, there is also U.S. involvement in the development of the Lunar Cruiser, which is expected to be completed by 2029.
The Lunar Cruiser is projected to allow for exploration for two astronauts for up to 30 days, and it “can carry out various uncrewed activities,” though further details weren’t provided. The Lunar Cruiser spans six meters in length with a width of 5.2 meters and height of 3.8 meters that will provide a living space during exploration.
So, while the Baby Lunar Cruiser is a cool concept, the real Lunar Cruiser is legitimately other-worldly.