Toyota Asks NHTSA For Safety Exemption For Its Hydrogen Fuel Cell Car

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.

Toyota has asked NHTSA for exemption from FMVSS 305.

Toyota has asked NHTSA for exemption from FMVSS 305.

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.

Toyota says it will protect occupants and first responders instead by insulating all high-voltage parts.

Toyota says it will protect occupants and first responders instead by insulating all high-voltage parts.

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.

The H2 fuel cell vehicle will hit a claimed range of 435 miles in Japanese test-cycle conditions.

The H2 fuel cell vehicle will hit a claimed range of 435 miles in Japanese test-cycle conditions.

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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  • Matt Beard

    I thought part of the reason for the disconnect was because emergency services need to cut crashed cars open and you don’t want to cut through a live 400V cable. Mechanical protection of the cables does not prevent this risk!

  • CDspeed

    Yeah let them grant a safety exemption to Toyota’s Hindenburg, they’ve had some of the biggest safety recalls in history, and they want a safety exemption? Especially for a car with two highly pressurized hydrogen tanks onboard? In my local area three women were killed recently when there car was hit by a driver going the wrong way, their gas tank ruptured in the accident. The one woman who was driving was pulled out but died later from her injuries, her passengers were sadly incinerated in the car, their bodies were unidentifiable. So if you think that granting Toyota an exemption is a good idea………..

    • Matt Beard

      I’m pretty sure that this exemption would only cover the HV disconnect, but I really like the new name. Until Toyota officially name this vehicle I vote we all call it the Toyota Hindenburg.

      • CDspeed

        Ok on Transport Evolved we’ll name it the Hindenburg LOL : ) Still though I think giving Toyota an exemption for HV disconnect is a very bad idea. They may be promising to better insulate the wires but they could still become exposed depending on the conditions of a crash. Plus it makes me wonder what is the problem, is there an onboard system that could fail when disconnected pertaining to the onboard hydrogen? That little mystery is worrisome.

  • Besides the emergency high voltage cutoff, the 305 standard calls for separating (physical distance) between high and low voltage cable runs, and special shielding to proved highvoltage ground loops through the body chassis. nnSomewhat disconcerting is lack of emergency cutoff u2026 as first responders will spend time looking for the cutoff before taking further action. This could delay critical rescue activities.

  • Surya

    I know some safety exemptions make sence sin some cases but allowing this one sounds like a bad isea