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Rob Levine Attorney At Law
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Is Toyota putting safety in the back seat?

Toyota, the Japanese auto manufacturer, currently seeks an exemption from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) from Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 305 to build new hydrogen fuel-cell car. This safety standard was established to help eliminate or minimize the number of deaths and/or injuries that result from the electrolyte spills associated with electric energy storage units in electric car crashes. Safety standard 305 addresses the likelihood of the electric energy storage/conversion device entering the passenger compartment of the car. Electric shock is the result of these occurrences in a crash and can be debilitating and/or fatal. Federal lawmakers via safety standard 305 require all high-voltage electric car components to be strategically placed and packaged in a way that will isolate them from vehicle passengers, drivers and emergency medical personnel who may respond to the scene of an accident. Proper placement and packaging helps ensure that people aren’t electrocuted in vehicle collisions. Toyota is lobbying that safety standard 305 is interfering with the production of its fuel cell vehicle and that the very component that stops electric shocks from occurring prevents their car from running.

Is Toyota ignoring important safety considerations?

While Toyota is asking for a two-year exemption from safety standard 305, the car-making giant does have a plan in place to protect vehicle drivers, passengers and emergency medical personnel from electrocution in the event of a collision. Instead of using the mechanism required by federal law to prevent electrical shocks during low-speed collisions, Toyota proposes to insulate dangerous high-voltage components such as: 

  • cables;
  • motor;
  • battery; and
  • fuel-cell stack with metal barriers.

According to Toyota officials, this alternate safety measure is equally safe for: 

  • drivers;
  • passengers; and
  • emergency medical personnel per the requirements of safety standard 305.

  As a driver, one must concern oneself with things like the evidence and information to be submitted in an insurance claim after a car accident. When driving a new type of car, like a fuel-cell car, check first with your attorney to determine what documentary evidence and/or car parts are useful for your car accident claim.

About the Fuel-Cell Car

Toyota suggests that fuel-cell car deliveries to the United States will be limited to 2,500 units annually. The vehicle is slated first to go on sale in Japan in April of 2015 for a price tag of seven million yen, or $69,000. The difference between the Toyota fuel-cell car and traditional electric cars is that the car doesn’t need to be plugged into a power outlet to charge energy. Rather, the car uses hydrogen gas, which is passed through a stack of platinum-dusted plates and plastic membranes to produce electricity. The vehicle will operate in compliance with zero-emission rules. It is still undetermined whether the NHTSA will allow this exemption for Toyota’s new fuel-cell vehicle. Further review is warranted to determine whether the world’s largest car manufacturer truly has proposed a safe alternative to safety standard 305 and is prepared to meet regulations that protect the American public from electrocution in electric car accidents.

What does this mean for me?

When considering the purchase of an electric car, be sure that you understand all safety concerns, what to look for when purchasing a new car and spend some time investigating manufacturing requirements. Do your research regarding any previous safety recalls. If you feel that you’ve been injured as a result of a car accident related to a manufacturing weakness or defect, you may be entitled to compensation. Robert Levine and Associates can help. Call 800-LAW-1222 for a free consultation.