The United Nations UNECE World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations is likely to adopt many Japanese safety rules for hybrid and electric vehicles as a global standard, says the Nikkei [sub].
Currently, there are no ECE safety standards for hybrid and electric vehicles. Japan has pushed its domestic safety rules to be adopted as international standards. Chances for adoption are good, Japanese companies and rulemakers are the pioneers in the field. Europe, which usually dominates ECE rule making, is lagging behind in the development of hybrid and electric vehicles, and doesn’t have much to lose if the Japanese standards are accepted.
The World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations plans to officially introduce global safety standards for hybrid and electric vehicles at a meeting in March. The new standards would then take effect by the end of the year.
53 countries are members of the World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations. They implement the well over 100 ECE regulations to varying degrees. The EU usually adopts most ECE regulations. By the end of 2008, Japan had included 35 ECE regulations in its JASIC rules. (Quite curiously, the most fervent adopter of ECE regulations is the Russian Federation. By the end of 2008, Russia had signed 123 of the 127 ECE regulations into law. The EU had adopted 105.)
If Japanese rules for hybrid and electric vehicles are adopted as global standards, Toyota and Honda should be the main beneficiaries. They will be able to continue selling their Prius and Insight hybrid vehicles without much modification.
Notably absent for the World Forum are the U.S.A. and Canada. Many other countries, even if not formally participating in the 1958 agreement, recognize the ECE Regulations and either mirror the ECE Regulations in their own national rules, or permit the use and importation of ECE-approved vehicles, or both.
Hopefully, worldwide adoption of Japan’s standards for hybrid and electric vehicles will entice Japan to adopt more ECE rules. It would be a big step towards a world of internationally accepted safety and emission regulations, a world from which the U.S.A. decided to isolate itself. Which is one of the reasons why U.S. car exports don’t fare too well in the world.