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Toyota Motor North America, Inc.; Grant of Petition for Temporary Exemption from an Electrical Safety Requirement of FMVSS No. 305

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government

Toyota Motor North America, Inc.; Grant of Petition for Temporary Exemption from an Electrical Safety Requirement of FMVSS No. 305

David J. Friedman
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
January 2, 2015


[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 1 (Friday, January 2, 2015)]
[Notices]
[Pages 101-104]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-30749]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

[Docket No. NHTSA-2014-0068]


Toyota Motor North America, Inc.; Grant of Petition for Temporary 
Exemption from an Electrical Safety Requirement of FMVSS No. 305

AGENCY: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 
Department of Transportation (DOT).

ACTION: Notice of grant of a petition for a temporary exemption from a 
provision of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 305, 
Electric-powered vehicles: electrolyte spillage and electrical shock 
protection.

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SUMMARY: In accordance with the procedures in 49 CFR part 555, Toyota 
Motor North America, Inc. (Toyota) petitioned the agency for a 
temporary exemption from one portion of FMVSS No. 305 that requires 
manufacturers to maintain a certain level of electrical isolation (or 
reduce the voltage below specified levels) of high voltage electrical 
components in an electric vehicle (EV) in the event of a crash. Toyota 
states that their forthcoming fuel cell vehicle (FCV) models cannot 
meet this requirement due to certain design characteristics innate to 
FCVs. Toyota is instead using alternative strategies to help ensure 
that occupants and first responders are protected in the event of a 
crash. After reviewing Toyota's petition and the comments received, the 
agency has decided to grant the petition. The agency has determined 
that Toyota's petition for exemption would facilitate the development 
or field evaluation of a low-emission motor vehicle and would not 
unreasonably reduce the safety level of that vehicle.

DATES: This exemption is effective from June 1, 2015 to May 31, 2017.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jesse Chang, Office of the Chief 
Counsel, NCC-112, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1200 
New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC 20590. Telephone: (202) 366-2992; 
Fax: (202) 366-3820.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Table of Contents

I. Summary of NHTSA's Decision To Grant Toyota's Petition
II. Statutory Authority for Temporary Exemptions
III. The Electrical Safety Requirement in FMVSS No. 305 and Its 
Purpose
IV. Overview of Petition
V. Notice of Receipt
VI. Agency Analysis and Decision
    a. Makes Easier the Development or Field Evaluation of a Low-
Emission Vehicle
    b. Does Not Unreasonably Lower the Safety of the Vehicle
    c. Consistent With the Public Interest
VII. Plan to Comply With the Standard at the End of the Exemption 
Period and Response to Honda's Comment
VIII. Conclusion

I. Summary of NHTSA's Decision To Grant Toyota's Petition

    The subject of Toyota's petition is a portion of the electrical 
safety requirements in paragraph S5.3 of FMVSS No. 305 that are 
intended to reduce the risk of high voltage electrical shock to the 
vehicle's occupants and the first responders in the event of a crash. 
Toyota stated in its petition that certain design aspects innate to 
Fuel Cell Vehicles (FCVs) preclude the vehicle from meeting those 
electrical safety requirements in paragraph S5.3 of FMVSS No. 305 under 
certain conditions. However, Toyota stated that it will implement 
various alternative strategies to ensure that the vehicle occupants and 
first responders are protected from an undue risk of high voltage 
electrical shock after a crash.
    Because they assert that they cannot meet the requirements of FMVSS 
No. 305 due to design characteristics innate to FCVs, they also state 
that they cannot comply with the standard at the conclusion of the 
exemption period. However, they have instead submitted a petition for 
rulemaking to suggest changes to FMVSS No. 305 to help accommodate FCVs 
while still ensuring a high level of protection for vehicle occupants 
and first responders from dangerous electrical shock in the event of a 
crash.
    As further discussed below, we are granting Toyota's petition 
because the exemption would facilitate the development or field 
evaluation of a low-emission vehicle and would not unreasonably reduce 
the safety level of that vehicle. While Toyota petitioned for this 
exemption under two alternative bases, we have decided to grant 
Toyota's petition on the basis that it would facilitate the development 
of a low-emission vehicle. Therefore, this document will not address 
the merits of Toyota's alternative basis for the petition (prevent the 
sale of a vehicle whose overall safety is at least equivalent to 
compliant vehicles).

II. Statutory Authority for Temporary Exemptions

    The National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (``Motor Vehicle 
Safety Act''), codified at 49 U.S.C. Chapter 301, provides the 
Secretary of Transportation authority to exempt, on a temporary basis 
and under specified circumstances, motor vehicles from a motor vehicle 
safety standard or bumper standard. This authority is set forth at 49 
U.S.C. 30113. The Secretary has delegated the authority for 
implementing this section to NHTSA.
    The Act authorizes the Secretary to grant a temporary exemption to 
a vehicle manufacturer if it is consistent with the public interest and 
it meets certain conditions. The relevant condition for Toyota's 
petition requires the Secretary to find that ``the exemption would make 
the development or field evaluation of a low-emission motor vehicle 
easier and would not unreasonably lower the safety level of that 
vehicle.'' \1\
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    \1\ See 49 U.S.C. 30113.
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    NHTSA established 49 CFR part 555, Temporary Exemption from Motor 
Vehicle Safety and Bumper Standards, to implement the statutory 
provisions concerning temporary exemptions. The requirements specified 
in 49 CFR 555.5 state that the petitioner must set forth the basis of 
the application by providing the required information under Part 555.6, 
and the reasons why the exemption would be in the public interest and 
consistent with the objectives of 49 U.S.C. Chapter 301.
    A petition under the basis that the exemption would make easier the 
development or field evaluation of a low-emission motor vehicle must 
include the information specified in 49

[[Page 102]]

CFR 555.6(c). The main requirements of that section include: (1) 
Substantiation that the vehicle is a low-emission vehicle; (2) 
documentation establishing that a temporary exemption would not 
unreasonably lower the safety of a vehicle; (3) substantiation that a 
temporary exemption would facilitate the development or field 
evaluation of the vehicle; and (4) a statement of whether the 
petitioner intends to conform to the standard at the end of the 
exemption period.

III. The Electrical Safety Requirement in FMVSS No. 305 and Its Purpose

    In 2000, the agency created Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 
(FMVSS) No. 305 to help facilitate the safe introduction of EVs into 
the marketplace.\2\ While FMVSS No. 305 addresses a number of safety 
concerns relevant to EVs (e.g., battery retention and electrolyte 
spillage), paragraph S5.3 of the standard (at issue here) requires EVs 
to maintain electrical isolation of various major electrical components 
(e.g., components related to the vehicle's propulsion) after specified 
crash tests. The purpose of the requirements in S5.3 is to reduce the 
risk of high voltage electrical shock to the vehicle's occupants and 
first responders in the event of a crash.\3\
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    \2\ See 65 FR 57980 (Sept. 27, 2000).
    \3\ See id.
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    NHTSA published its most recent major update to the S5.3 
requirements in 2010.\4\ In this update, NHTSA expanded the types of 
electrical components that would be covered by the requirement and the 
options available for complying with the requirement. Namely, the 
agency expanded the coverage of the standard to include other high 
voltage components of the EV beyond the propulsion battery. Further, 
the updated requirements recognize the different safety implications 
between Alternating Current (AC) and Direct Current (DC) by 
establishing different requirements for each type of electrical 
component. FMVSS No. 305 further specifies various crash test 
conditions under which a vehicle is required to meet the aforementioned 
requirements. Depending on the particular crash scenario (e.g., frontal 
barrier, rear moving barrier, and side moving deformable barrier), the 
tests can be conducted at any speed up to a maximum speed of 48, 80, or 
54 km/h, respectively.\5\
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    \4\ See 75 FR 33515 (June 14, 2010). NHTSA also answered 
petitions for reconsideration on this final rule on July 29, 2011 
dealing with clarifying the definitions and test procedures of the 
June 14, 2010 final rule. See 76 FR 45436.
    \5\ The speed condition for each test is specified in paragraphs 
S6.1 to S6.3.
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IV. Overview of Petition

    In accordance with 49 U.S.C. 30113 and the procedures in 49 CFR 
part 555, Toyota Motor North America, Inc. (Toyota) submitted a 
petition asking the agency for a temporary exemption from the 
electrical safety requirements in paragraph S5.3 of FMVSS No. 305. They 
stated that they plan to manufacture FCV models and that certain 
aspects of their FCV design prevent it from meeting the requirements in 
S5.3 of FMVSS No. 305.
    As described above, the requirements of paragraph S5.3 state that 
(after certain specified crash tests) a vehicle must maintain an 
electrical isolation of 500 ohms/volt for AC high voltage sources (and 
DC high voltage sources without electrical isolation monitoring) or 100 
ohms/volt for DC high voltage sources with electrical isolation 
monitoring. Vehicles subject to FMVSS No. 305 must meet these 
requirements when tested under any speed up to a maximum speed of 48, 
54, or 80 km/h (depending on the particular crash test).
    Toyota stated in its petition that its FCVs will be able to meet 
the requirements of paragraph S5.3 of FMVSS No. 305 under some, but not 
all, of the specified test speeds. The company stated that under higher 
speeds (e.g., speeds similar to when an air bag would deploy), an 
automatic disconnect mechanism activates to ensure that the high 
voltage components will meet the requirements of paragraph S5.3. 
However, Toyota stated that the automatic disconnect mechanism in its 
FCVs will not be triggered in impacts at relatively low speeds. Toyota 
believes it would not be appropriate to equip FCVs with sensors that 
would trigger the automatic disconnect mechanism following minor 
impacts (such as parking lot collisions or curb contacts) because it is 
not possible to drive the vehicle after the system is disconnected. 
Toyota stated that its FCV would be unable to meet the requirements of 
paragraph S5.3 in such low speed crash conditions where the automatic 
disconnect mechanism is not triggered.\6\
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    \6\ Additional information is available in Toyota's petition. 
The petition is available in the docket referenced at the beginning 
of this document.
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    In support of their petition, Toyota stated that this exemption 
would make the development or field evaluation of a low-emission motor 
vehicle easier and would not unreasonably lower the safety level of the 
vehicle.\7\ Toyota requests the exemption (under either basis) for 2 
years (June 1, 2015 to May 31, 2017) and has stated that it would not 
produce more than 2,500 exempted FCVs within any 12-month period during 
the exemption.
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    \7\ Toyota also petitioned under an alternative basis stating 
that compliance with FMVSS No. 305 would prevent it from selling a 
motor vehicle with an overall safety level at least equal to the 
overall safety level of non-exempt vehicles. However, as stated 
above, we have decided to grant this exemption under the basis that 
it would facilitate the development of a low-emission vehicle. Thus, 
we do not reach the merits of Toyota's alternative basis in this 
document. To view the application, go to http://www.regulations.gov 
and enter the docket number set forth in the heading of this 
document.
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    In support of its assertion that the exemption would facilitate the 
development of a low-emission vehicle, Toyota states that its FCVs 
qualify as a low-emission vehicle because its FCVs will not emit 
particulate matter. Further, Toyota states that the FCV's noncompliance 
with paragraph S5.3 of FMVSS No. 305 would not unreasonably lower the 
safety of the vehicle because the vehicle has additional safety 
features designed to protect vehicle occupants and first responders in 
the event of a crash. First, Toyota equipped the FCV high voltage 
sources with physical barriers that they believe would prevent any 
direct physical contact with live voltage sources after the crash. 
Second, Toyota ensured that all physical barriers would be grounded to 
the chassis with a grounding resistance of less than 0.1 ohms. The 
company states that this would protect against any indirect contact 
with high voltage sources. Finally, Toyota states that the high voltage 
sources would continue to maintain an electrical isolation of 100 ohms/
volt. Through the combination of these three attributes, Toyota 
believes that the noncompliance with paragraph S5.3 would not 
unreasonably lower the safety of its FCVs.

V. Notice of Receipt

    On June 11, 2014, we published in the Federal Register (79 FR 
33639) a notice of receipt of Toyota's petition for temporary 
exemption, and provided an opportunity for public comment. We received 
one comment from American Honda Motor Co., Inc., (Honda) seeking to 
clarify that their fuel cell vehicle (the Honda FCX Clarity) is 
compliant with the requirements of FMVSS No. 305 and that their future 
vehicles will also be compliant with the standard.
    In addition, Honda supported Toyota's assertion that the current 
electrical isolation requirements in S5.3 may not accommodate lower 
electrical

[[Page 103]]

isolation requirements for DC high voltage sources such as fuel cells 
and propulsion batteries. Honda agreed that vehicles cannot take 
advantage of the separate electrical isolation requirements specified 
in S5.3 for DC high voltage sources (100 ohms/volt) in low speed 
crashes when the automatic disconnect is not triggered. Honda stated 
that in such low speed crashes, the AC and DC sources are connected and 
so the isolation resistance measured across the AC source is the 
combined resistance of the AC and DC sources.\8\ In order to obtain an 
electrical isolation measurement greater than or equal to 500 ohms/volt 
across the AC high voltage source when the automatic disconnect is not 
triggered, the DC source would need to have an electrical isolation 
greater than or equal to 500 ohms/volt.
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    \8\ The AC and DC high voltage sources are in parallel 
configuration so that the effective resistance of the combined 
system is RAC x RDC/
(RAC+RDC), where RAC is the 
isolation resistance of the AC source and RDC is the 
isolation resistance of the DC source.
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VI. Agency Analysis and Decision

    After reviewing Toyota's petition, the agency has determined that 
granting a temporary exemption in this case would make the development 
or field evaluation of a low-emission motor vehicle easier without 
unreasonably lowering the safety level of that vehicle and would be 
consistent with the public interest.

a. Makes Easier the Development or Field Evaluation of a Low-Emission 
Vehicle

    First, we conclude that Toyota's FCV models would be considered a 
low-emission vehicle for the purposes of the Sec.  30113 of the Motor 
Vehicle Safety Act because FCVs are vehicles that do not emit any air 
pollutants from their tailpipes.\9\ Further, we believe that the 
temporary exemption would make easier the development of those 
vehicles. As Toyota stated in their petition, obtaining field 
information about new technologies (especially information about 
consumer reaction and real world performance) would facilitate Toyota's 
development and decisions on potential modifications to future versions 
of their FCVs. Given the nature of this technology as a zero-emission 
technology and the information that Toyota intends to obtain from the 
field operation of these vehicles, we believe that Toyota has fulfilled 
this criterion.
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    \9\ A vehicle is considered a low-emission vehicle for the 
purposes of Sec.  30113 of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act if it emits 
air pollutants significantly below the standards for new vehicle set 
under Sec.  202 of the Clean Air Act. Since FCVs do not emit such 
pollutants, they are considered low-emissions vehicles under Sec.  
30113.
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b. Does Not Unreasonably Lower the Safety of the Vehicle

    Second, we conclude that granting this temporary exemption would 
not unreasonably lower the safety of these vehicles. As Toyota 
described in their petition, their vehicles would comply with the 
requirements of FMVSS No. 305 under the higher speed testing 
conditions. However, the FCVs would be unable to comply with the 
standard under testing conditions where the automatic disconnect does 
not activate to separate the AC and DC high voltage. These test 
conditions would be the lower speed conditions (such as speeds where an 
air bag would not deploy).
    However, we do not believe that this non-compliance would 
unreasonably lower the safety of Toyota's FCVs in this case for two 
reasons. First, Toyota intends to design its FCVs to be fully compliant 
with FMVSS No. 305 at higher crash speeds. Thus, under many of the 
crash conditions that can occur in the real world, the Toyota FCVs will 
be no different from any other vehicle with high voltage electrical 
components that comply with FMVSS No. 305. Second, Toyota stated in its 
petition that it will implement alternative safety measures to ensure 
the safety of the vehicle occupants and first responders will be 
protected from electric shock hazards after a crash. As described 
above, Toyota intends to use the combination of three additional safety 
features (a physical barrier to prevent physical contact with the high 
voltage source + the grounding of the physical barriers to the chassis 
+ the maintaining of an electrical isolation of 100 ohms/volt) to 
address the safety concern under lower speed crash conditions.
    When considering the narrower set of circumstances under which 
Toyota's FCVs would be non-compliant with the requirements of FMVSS No. 
305 in conjunction with the alternative safety countermeasures that 
Toyota intends to incorporate, we do not believe that granting the 
exemption would unreasonably lower the safety of Toyota's FCVs.

c. Consistent With the Public Interest

    Finally, we believe that granting Toyota's petition is consistent 
with the public interest. FCVs implement an alternative fuel technology 
in motor vehicles. They are zero-emissions like battery electric 
vehicles. However, as stated in Toyota's petition, they can have 
driving range, refueling time, and cold weather performance advantages 
over pure battery electric vehicles. We believe that this temporary 
exemption would not only increase consumer choice in the vehicle 
market, but would also help demonstrate to the public the viability of 
this type of electric vehicle technology. Further, we believe that the 
information Toyota intends to collect through the field operation of 
these FCVs (e.g., consumer reaction and real world performance 
information) will contribute to not only Toyota's development of future 
FCV models but also the aggregate knowledge of real world use of FCVs.
    Additionally, we believe that the requested exemption will have a 
limited impact on general motor vehicle safety because Toyota will be 
limited to an annual production of 2,500 vehicles under this exemption. 
Further, prospective purchasers will be notified that the vehicle is 
exempted from the electrical isolation requirements of FMVSS No. 305. 
Under Sec.  555.9(b), a manufacturer of an exempted vehicle must affix 
securely to the windshield or side window of each exempted vehicle a 
label containing a statement that the vehicle conforms to all 
applicable FMVSSs in effect on the date of manufacture ``except for 
Standard Nos. [listing the standards by number and title for which an 
exemption has been granted] exempted pursuant to NHTSA Exemption 
No._.'' Under Sec.  555.9(c), this information must also be included on 
the vehicle's certification label.\10\
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    \10\ See 49 CFR part 555.9.
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VII. Plan To Comply With the Standard at the End of the Exemption 
Period and Response to Honda's Comment

    As Toyota believes that issues inherent with the design of FCVs 
prevent it from fully complying with the requirements of FMVSS No. 305, 
Toyota states that it does not anticipate it will be able to comply 
with the standard in the future. However, it instead stated its 
intention to petition for rulemaking and recommend to the agency a 
solution that will ensure the same level of safety as FMVSS No. 305 
currently offers while still accommodating the design challenges 
related to FCVs. We note that Honda also supported the position that 
this is a technical issue with the standard via their comment that FCVs 
are unable to take advantage of the lower isolation resistance 
requirements for DC high voltage sources without an automatic 
disconnect to separate them from the AC sources.
    The agency has already received Toyota's petition for rulemaking on 
this matter and the agency will be considering the merits of that 
petition.

[[Page 104]]

While we have determined in this notice that Toyota's FCV design (along 
with their alternative safety measures) do not unreasonably degrade 
safety for the purposes of this exemption, we have not yet made any 
determinations regarding Toyota's petition for rulemaking.

VIII. Conclusion

    In accordance with 49 U.S.C. 30113(b)(3)(B)(iii), we are granting 
Toyota NHTSA Temporary Exemption No. EX 14-02 from paragraph S5.3 of 
FMVSS No. 305 provided that Toyota implements the alternative measures 
to ensure electrical safety as described above. The exemption shall be 
effective from June 1, 2015 to May 31, 2017, as indicated in the DATES 
section of this document.

    Authority: 49 U.S.C. 30113; delegations of authority at 49 CFR 
1.95.

    Issued in Washington, DC, on December 22, 2014 under authority 
delegated in 49 CFR 1.95 and 501.5.
David J. Friedman,
Deputy Administrator.
[FR Doc. 2014-30749 Filed 12-31-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4910-59-P

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