Japanese automaker Toyota might not be launching its first ever mass-produced fuel cell vehicle in the U.S. for another year, but it’s already hard at work trying to ready the as-yet un-named hydrogen fuel cell sedan for the U.S. market.
As part of that process, it has petitioned the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration — the U.S. governmental body responsible for setting and testing vehicular safety standards — to exempt it from a regulation pertaining to electrical safety disconnects in the event of an accident.
Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 305, a requirement which mandates that all vehicles with high-voltage powertrains feature a safety device to automatically disconnect the power in the event of a crash, is designed to protect the car, its occupants and first responders from electrocution post collision.
As Automotive News (subscription required) reports however, Toyota’s engineers say such a system would render its fuel cell sedan ‘inoperable,’ causing the automaker to petition the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for an exemption from FMVSS 305.
Instead, Toyota’s engineers say, the FCV sedan will meet an equivalent standard of safety by insulating all high-voltage power lines and surrounding sensitive high-voltage power components such as its small battery pack, fuel cell stack and motor with a metallic shield.
It’s not clear at the time of writing if Toyota has been granted the necessary exemption from FMVSS 305 by NHTSA, although it’s worth noting that this particular practice isn’t unusual in the automotive industry for limited-production or small-production run cars.
Tesla, for example, has petitioned NHTSA on multiple occasions for exemption from various FMVSS, including once to exempt its limited-production two-seat Roadster from FMVSS 208, a safety standard requiring two-stage airbags, and to exempt it from FMVSS 126, a safety standard requiring electronic stability control.
It is expected that Volkswagen will need to apply for FMVSS exemption in order to sell its XL1 plug-in hybrid car in the U.S., since rear view cameras in place of rear view mirrors are not allowed under existing FMVSS.
Usually, exemptions are only given on either a temporary basis, or to limited production or low-volume vehicles, reinforcing what we already knew: Toyota’s first hydrogen fuel cell vehicle will be available in limited numbers.
We’ll bring you more on this exemption petition as soon as we have it — including the official NHSTA response.
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