Toyota is requesting an exemption from federal safety regulations that govern electric cars as it prepares to launch a small-scale hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle fleet.

The Japanese automaker is targeting Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 305, which covers the packaging of high-voltage parts in electric cars. According to Uncle Sam, these systems need to be isolated so that passengers and first responders aren't electrocuted in the event of a crash. That seems pretty smart, but it's become a problem for Toyota's upcoming production fuel cell vehicle, as the mechanism that prevents electric shocks in low-speed crashes will apparently simply keep Toyota's car from even functioning.

Instead of the federally approved system, Bloomberg reports that Toyota plans to insulate the high-voltage wires and cables in the car, along with shielding electrical components like the fuel cells, electric motor and batteries with (presumably non-conductive) metal barriers.

It's unclear if the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will bow to Toyota's request, but the government safety watchdog might be swayed in light of the fact that the company is targeting a very small number of sales – 2,500 per year – and it still has a plan in place to protect first responders and vehicle occupants.


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  • 38 Comments
      superlightv12
      • 6 Months Ago
      Why oh why do automakers insist on making hybrid, electric or this look like something from outer space? The single exception is the Tesla. They get it. Their car is incredibly beautiful and stunning.
        Marco Polo
        • 5 Months Ago
        @superlightv12
        @ superlightv12 I think the idea is to be ahead of the trend, and make the cars really noticeable. These early HFCV's are really more of marketing experiments than serious production vehicles. But you're right, the styling is more,...ah.. suitable for Japanese domestic consumption.
        Actionable Mango
        • 5 Months Ago
        @superlightv12
        Because they don't really care to sell them anyway.
          Joeviocoe
          • 5 Months Ago
          @Actionable Mango
          They never tried to sell a $70,000 Prius
          Mike
          • 5 Months Ago
          @Actionable Mango
          I said the same thing about the Prius...but it sells very well. Some people just don't care how ugly it is.
      korblalak
      • 5 Months Ago
      Why should there be an exception when the thing is a rolling ticking bomb?
        Mike
        • 5 Months Ago
        @korblalak
        You really don't know how hydrogen works do you?
          korblalak
          • 5 Months Ago
          @Mike
          I know fuel cell vehicles hold hydrogen (the most explosive gas on Earth) in a tank under extreme pressure. The hydrogen stations are also highly volatile and could blow up entire neighborhoods.
      FordGo
      • 5 Months Ago
      Toyota END the HOAX. Global Oil Production numbers Keep Dropping. http://bittooth.blogspot.com/2014/06/tech-talk-numbers-keep-going-down.html Will hydrogen cars be able to supplant gas any time soon, economically? Of Course Not. For Japan or the US? NO. If there's a supply crisis we need Plugin-Hybrids, and actually we need them NOW. STOP the H2 HOAX.
        Marco Polo
        • 5 Months Ago
        @FordGo
        @ FordGo Is this your fifth or sixth name change ? Nevermind, it's always the same old rant isn't it ? Toyota, VW, Hyundai, Honda, Daimler-Benz, BMW, etc, all these giant corporations, including governments around the world have all spent billions of dollars, just to conspire together in a gigantic hoax, that only you have so cleverly detected ! Thousands of scientists, engineers and other, also are in on the joke ! Clever you, you have realised that the whole time it was all about playing the world largest practical joke ! Or,...are you just in need of a change of medication ?
          korblalak
          • 5 Months Ago
          @Marco Polo
          Give it a break Marco. FordGo and the majority of readers realize Hydrogen doesn't make any sense, not when we have Tesla demonstrating the viability of BEVs. Hydrogen is a subsidized monopoly and you know it.
          Marco Polo
          • 5 Months Ago
          @Marco Polo
          @ korblalak FordGo and all his other nom-de-ruse, like you, just chant the usual old hackneyed slogans. Tesla doesn't demonstrate anything other than a very small number of relatively affluent people, in the right circumstances can access a passenger EV. It might interest you to know that for the last 5 years i have driving an EV with same (or more) capability as a Tesla model, and I'm awaiting delivery of Model s for our company fleet. But, that doesn't mean I can't comprehend that for the vast majority of road transport, and a huge number of people, a Tesla model S is inappropriate. Your concept that H2 is a subsidized monopoly, is also illogical. There are scores, if not thousands, of companies producing H2, so where's the monopoly ? As for subsidised, EV's are also subsidised in many countries. A handful of HFCV/H2 haters on ABG, doesn't make a 'majority' of anything. Conspiracy theories, don't replace real research and open-minded enquiry. Technology, isn't like a football team, where you just choose a side and support it no matter what !
          DarylMc
          • 5 Months Ago
          @Marco Polo
          Damn you Marco Polo I have enough trouble understanding English here:)
        Mike
        • 5 Months Ago
        @FordGo
        You quoted somebody's blogspot post as factual information? Long live the Internet, you all keep me pleasantly employed, keep enjoying faux news.
      2 wheeled menace
      • 5 Months Ago
      That's fine. Hydrogen with it's low flash point versus high voltage arcs won't be unsafe in any way at all. If they are marketing the car as a bomb, anyway.
        Cayman
        • 5 Months Ago
        @2 wheeled menace
        Hydrogen has a flash point right around 1000F. That isn't a low flash point, it's an extremely high flashpoint. For comparison, gasoline's flashpoint is around 500F.
          Ele Truk
          • 5 Months Ago
          @Cayman
          However the combustion ratio of Hydrogen is from 4% to 75%. For comparison, gasoline is a much narrower ratio of 1.4% to 7.6% making the possibility of a Hydrogen leak about 10 times more likely to ignite.
      Soccer Mom
      • 6 Months Ago
      Dear Toyota, if you are building a car of the future, why not make it look like one rather than a coffee maker?
      Justin Forposting
      • 5 Months Ago
      Poor reporting or sensationalism? the truth is boring. The law requires an isolation of 500 Ohm/V between either high voltage rail and chassis. (500Ohm/V * max. working voltage of the vehicle of 600V = 300,000 Ohms). This equates to a maximum possible current flowing through a person, should two failures simultaneously occur, of 2mA, or roughly 20 times less than anything dangerous. The requested exemption is to 100 Ohm/V, or 10mA, or roughly 4 times less than anything dangerous. This is the commonly accepted value for fuel cell vehicles, and is the SAE standard as well as the ECE standard (ECE R100). It is analogous to setting your belt to one rung looser so that you can breath a little bit, knowing full well that your suspenders are also still attached. The reason why the fuel cell needs this exemption is that the coolant that flows through the fuel cell stack and therefore touches the plates that are part of the high voltage system. The coolant is far from non-conductive and therefore has a measurable resistance that is based on the dimensions of the plumbing. To meet the 500 Ohm/V standard, the system would have to have ridiculously long hoses, which causes other problems to boot.
        Aaron
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Justin Forposting
        Why doesn't Hyundai need the exemption for its FCV?
          Dave
          • 5 Months Ago
          @Aaron
          Pure speculation on my part: The fuel cell in the Hyundai is in the engine compartment, while the fuel cell in the Toyota is under the seats. As a result, there are no fuel cell coolant lines running through (or adjacent to) the passenger compartment of the Hyundai, but there are coolant lines adjacent to the passenger compartment of the Toyota. (However - I believe the Honda FCX Clarity and the Mercedes Benz F-Cell have a layout similar to the Toyota, so they would probably require exemptions if Justin's explanation is correct.)
        DarylMc
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Justin Forposting
        Hi Justin Forposting Thankyou for that information. The article certainly does stink. Wording from the source article which had little information anyway was subtly changed to make the claim even more ambiguous. No facts provided about the claims and a presumption thrown in for good measure.
          Nick Kordich
          • 5 Months Ago
          @DarylMc
          My favorite part was the bit about non-conductive metal plates. By the way, here's the actual request from Toyota to NHTSA: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/06/11/2014-13540/toyota-motor-north-america-inc-receipt-of-petition-for-temporary-exemption-from-an-electrical-safety
      sebringc5
      • 6 Months Ago
      Could this not be the work of lawyers? Maybe Toyota is learning from their own recall history. Rather then thoroughly engineer a car that won't have a problem, ask for an exemption beforehand "just in case". This may not be the case, and I hope it isn't. But one has to wonder.... All the best, Aaron Lephart www.smartcar451.com
      Koenigsegg
      • 6 Months Ago
      looks ugly
      DarkKnight67
      • 5 Months Ago
      NO EXCEPTIONS! If you want to sell the product, you should have to live with the rules and regulations just like everyone else.
        Actionable Mango
        • 5 Months Ago
        @DarkKnight67
        Exceptions are normal for cars with such a small production run, so this is just like everyone else selling a small number of a specific model.
        Dave
        • 5 Months Ago
        @DarkKnight67
        "1/29/08 10:15am As part of the ongoing Tesla Roadster safety certification, the NHSTA is giving the company an important air bag exemption. The waiver was given because the company was losing money and would "have to cancel its pending development of an electric-powered sedan, and would ultimately have to terminate its operations." Of course, the government would like to encourage the development of alternative fuel/electric vehicles and looking the other way on this is something they've deemed reasonable. The exemption covers 625 vehicles this year and 3,200 vehicles over the next two years. The Tesla Roadster is still going to have standard airbags, but they will not meet the Advanced Air Bag standards. As a refresher, advanced airbags are ones that protect multiple types of passengers in the event of an accident. [AP via Google]P" http://jalopnik.com/350064/tesla-roadster-to-get-federal-air-bag-exemption-drive-slowly
      rick_kop
      • 6 Months Ago
      Bullshit!!! Toyota should have to abid and follow the same rules the rest of the industry does, no matter how many cars they produce.
        Actionable Mango
        • 5 Months Ago
        @rick_kop
        It is quite normal for low volume production cars to get waivers. Tesla, Panoz, Lamborghini, Ferrari, Fiat, and Lotus all get safety waivers that exempt them from one safety regulation or another. And those are just the more famous names, there are probably a hundred smaller brands that do it too.
      normc32
      • 5 Months Ago
      Yep! Toyota bending the rules before the game begins. Just like when they tried at 24 of Lemans and got caught.
      Grendal
      • 6 Months Ago
      As long as it isn't going to kill someone then it should be fine for the first year when there are only going to be a very limited number of cars.
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