Toyota Motor Corporation has received approval from Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) to self-inspect and manufacture high-pressure hydrogen tanks for fuel cell vehicles (FCVs). This makes Toyota the first company to become a registered manufacturer of 70 MPa (700 bar) hydrogen tanks under Japan’s High Pressure Gas Safety Act, revised in 1997 by METI.
Under the Act, all containers and accessories for storing gases at pressures of 1 MPa (10 bar) and above must be type-certified by METI, and are subjected to witnessed inspections by the High Pressure Gas Safety Institute of Japan (KHK) during the manufacturing process. Hydrogen tanks require an additional inspection upon completion.
Since the tanks cannot be used in vehicle assembly until they pass these inspections, until now, KHK inspectors were required to be present during the manufacture of hydrogen tanks for Toyota’s various test vehicles, such as the Toyota FCHV-adv. This, in turn, meant that tank inventory control and manufacturing plans, in addition to broader FCV production plans, needed to be adjusted around tank inspection schedules.
Due to ongoing plans to bring an FCV sedan to market in Japan before April 2015, Toyota applied to register as a container manufacturer in order to be able to self-inspect and manufacture high-pressure hydrogen tanks. To receive approval, a company must meet KHKS 0102, a set of stringent criteria containing 194 requirements set forth by KHK, and must demonstrate that it possesses a high-level manufacturing quality management system.
To meet the KHKS 0102 criteria, Toyota developed a quality manual and container inspection rules based on its extensive quality management expertise, and established a fully documentable hydrogen tank quality management system that extends to affiliated parts companies.
In June, following KHK’s onsite audit of its high-pressure hydrogen tank production process, Toyota was judged to have met KHKS 0102 criteria. The following month, Toyota submitted an application to the Chubu Kinki Industrial Safety and Inspection Department to request approval from METI.
With this approval, Toyota will be able to manufacture tanks using in-house inspectors, without the need of witnessed inspections by KHK. Toyota believes this will lead to improved manufacturing efficiency for high-pressure hydrogen tanks, and to productivity improvements and cost reductions for FCVs.