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.