Nissan tests all-wheel control system in JAXA lunar rover prototype
As part of a month-long series of real-world and virtual events showcasing upcoming technology, Nissan has revealed a lunar rover prototype it's currently working on with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
Nissan has been working with JAXA on the rover's drive control system for almost a year, tapping into knowledge gained from the development of its Leaf electric car, and the all-wheel control technology employed in the 2022 model of the company's Ariya electric crossover.
Indeed, the focus of this prototype unveil is the work Nissan is undertaking to help ensure that a future JAXA lunar surface explorer can get to grips with all kinds of different terrain without getting into trouble.
The e-4ORCE technology in the upcoming Ariya has been developed for "powerful, smooth high-output, ride comfort for all, independent brake control for top-level handling, and confidence on any road surface." The system individually controls the torque of each of the vehicle's front and rear electric motors "to provide traction during acceleration" while minimizing dive and body shake during braking.
And so it will be for the lunar rover, with the e-4ORCE model being tweaked to help overcome the various challenges presented by the Moon's different surfaces, including minimizing wheel spin on sand-like terrain so that the rover doesn't dig in and get stuck.
Neither JAXA or Nissan are giving anything away on other systems being deployed in the rover, though Nissan is hoping that advances made during the research project could yield benefits for drivers here on Earth.
"We aim for the ultimate driving performance through our research and development, and believe the know-how gained from this joint research with JAXA will lead to innovations in our vehicles that will bring benefits to customers," said Toshiyuki Nakajima, from Nissan's Advanced Vehicle Engineering Department.
The prototype drivetrain shown roving a mockup lunar landscape in the video below looks very much like it might be headed for a robot surface explorer, but JAXA has also been working with Toyota, Honda and others to prepare technologies for missions to the Moon, so the e-4ORCE technology could be installed in manned transporters and other surface vehicles too.