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Solectria Corporation; Grant of Petition for Temporary Exemption From Four Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Topics:  Solectria, Chevrolet S-10

Solectria Corporation; Grant of Petition for Temporary Exemption From Four Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards

Christopher A. Hart
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
March 28, 1994


[Federal Register Volume 59, Number 59 (Monday, March 28, 1994)]
[Unknown Section]
[Page ]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 94-7159]


[Federal Register: March 28, 1994]


-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
[Docket No. 93-84; Notice 2]


Solectria Corporation; Grant of Petition for Temporary Exemption 
From Four Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards

    Solectria Corporation of Arlington, Massachusetts, petitioned to be 
exempted from four Federal motor vehicle safety standards for trucks 
that it converts to electric power. The basis of the petition was that 
compliance with the standards would cause substantial economic 
hardship.
    Notice of receipt of the petition was published on December 23, 
1993, and an opportunity afforded for comment (58 FR 68189). This 
notice grants that petition.
    Previously, petitioner received NHTSA Exemption No. 92-2 covering 
Geo Metro passenger cars that it converts to electric power, and 
markets under the name ``Solectria Force.'' As of the date of the 
latest petition, 45 Solectria Forces had been sold. Petitioner now 
intends to convert new Chevrolet S-10 pickup trucks to electric power. 
The vehicles to be converted have been certified by their original 
manufacturer to conform to all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety 
standards. However, petitioner determined that the vehicles may not 
conform with all or part of four Federal motor vehicle safety standards 
after their modification. The standards for which exemptions were 
requested are discussed below.

1. Standard No. 204, Steering Control Rearward Displacement

    The conversion affects the ability to meet paragraph S4.2. 
According to the petitioner, ``[b]ecause the weight in the hood is 
changed, a 30 mile per hour crash test under the conditions of S5 would 
be needed to determine the steering wheel's rearward displacement.''

2. Standard No. 208, Occupant Crash Protection

    The conversion affects the ability to meet paragraphs S4.2.2 and 
S4.6.1. According to the petitioner, ``[b]ecause the Solectria pickup 
has manual Type 2 seat belts, S4.2.2 requires that the pickup meet the 
requirements of S4.1.2.3. S4.6.1 requires that Solectria's pickup meet 
the frontal crash protection requirements of S5.1.''

3. Standard No. 212, Windshield Mounting

4. Standard No. 219, Windshield Zone Intrusion

    According to the petitioner, ``[t]he modifications will affect the 
requirements'' of each of these two standards.
    Exemption was requested from these four standards for a period of 
three years. the conversion of the vehicle to electric power results in 
a net weight increase of 500 pounds which is 17 percent over the weight 
at which the vehicle was originally certified. It involves the 
substitution of electrical propulsion components for the original ones 
relating to internal combustion propulsion, and modifications to the 
heating system and drive shaft. Petitioner stated that ``thirty-mile 
per hour barrier crash testing is needed to determine the actual energy 
absorbing characteristics of the new front compartment components.''
    Petitioner argued that to require immediate compliance would create 
substantial economic hardship. As of September 30, 1990, the end of its 
first fiscal year, the company had a net income of $8,186. However, at 
the end of its second and third fiscal years, it had net losses, 
respectively of $87,602 and $106,243. Thus, as of September 30, 1992, 
it had cumulative net losses of $185,659. It estimates that the total 
cost of testing for compliance with the four standards would be 
$155,520. If modifications appear indicated, further testing would be 
required. An exemption would permit vehicle sales and the generation of 
cash permitting testing and full certification of compliance while the 
exemptions are in effect. It anticipates orders for 25 trucks in its 
first year of production, 50 units in the second year, and 150 vehicles 
in the third. A denial of the petition would delay Solectria's 
production ``for several years and would likely prevent production 
altogether.''
    According to the petitioner, granting the exemption would be in the 
public interest and consistent with the National Traffic and Motor 
Vehicle Safety Act (the Act) because it ``will be able to make a 
substantive contribution to the nation's clean transportation needs. ''
    No comments were received on the petition.
    Petitioner's lifetime financial history through September 30, 1992, 
indicated a cumulative net loss of almost $186,000. It is doubtful that 
the results for the year ending September 30, 1993, which have not been 
supplied, would materially improve the picture. According to The New 
York Times (January 28, 1994, page D4), Solectria's total vehicle 
production since its founding is about 60, and it has orders for about 
52 vehicles more. It has estimated compliance testing costs for the 
four standards to be approximately $155,000. Further costs would be 
incurred if modifications are indicated. In the agency's view, the 
petitioner has demonstrated that immediate compliance would cause it 
substantial economic hardship.
    Because the host vehicle is certified to be in compliance with all 
applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards, the statutory 
language requiring a finding that the petitioner has made a good faith 
effort to comply with the standards from which exemption is sought must 
be considered in a different light. Petitioner has evaluated the effect 
of its conversion operations upon a certified vehicle, and has 
determined that its converted vehicle may not conform with four Federal 
motor vehicle safety standards. It has further estimated the cost of 
testing to verify the compliance status of its vehicles, a sum that 
approaches in amount its cumulative net losses to date. During the time 
the exemption is in effect it states that it will carry through its 
compliance testing program to achieve full conformance. Under these 
circumstances, NHTSA believes that the petitioner is making a good 
faith effort to comply with the standards. Finally, though the volume 
of production would be small, the exempted vehicles would emit zero 
emissions. Thus, an exemption would be in the public interest, and 
consistent with the objectives of the Vehicle Safety Act to promote 
alternatives to the internal combustion engine and to relieve on a 
temporary basis restrictions upon small manufacturers consistent with 
safety.
    On the basis of the foregoing, it is hereby found that immediate 
compliance would cause the petitioner substantial economic hardship, 
that the petitioner has in good faith attempted to conform with the 
standards from which exemption is requested, and that an exemption 
would be consistent with the public interest and the objectives of the 
Act. Accordingly, Solectria Corporation is hereby granted NHTSA 
Temporary Exemption No. 92-2, expiring February 1, 1997, from the 
following standards, or portions thereof, applicable to its Chevrolet 
S-10 pickup truck conversion: 49 CFR 571.204 Motor Vehicle Safety 
Standard No. 204 Steering Column Rearward Displacement; paragraphs 
S4.2.2 and S4.6.1 of 49 CFR 571.208 Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 
208 Occupant Restraint Systems; 49 CFR 571.212 Motor Vehicle Safety 
Standard No. 212 Windshield Mounting; and 49 CFR 571.219 Motor Vehicle 
Safety Standard No. 219 Windshield Zone Intrusion.

(15 U.S.C. 1410; delegation of authority at 49 CFR 1.50)

    Issued on: March 22, 1994.
Christopher A. Hart,
Deputy Administrator.
[FR Doc. 94-7159 Filed 3-25-94; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4910-59-M

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