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THE DEFECTIVE TOYOTA PRIUS HYBRID INVERTER

Toyota Talk

“My gut is that the software fix saves money. This is really serious. The inverters need to be replaced.”

- Michael Pecht, Founder of the University of Maryland Center for Advanced Life Cycle Engineering, February 18, 2018, LA Times

THE GIST

Toyota issued safety recall E0E (NHTSA ID 14V-053) in 2014, acknowledging a safety defect caused by the hybrid inverter in their 2010-2014 Toyota Prius Liftbacks. One successful Southern California Toyota dealer is stating that Toyota's $80 software update "remedy" is inadequate because it does not cure the safety defect and that affected Prius vehicles continue to lose power, stall, and/or shut down on American highways due to inverter failures after the E0E safety recall software remedy is completed. A replacement of the Inverter Assembly would cost Toyota approximately $3,000 per Prius.

The dealer has submitted two briefings on the questionable safety recall to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration - both detailing 100+ inverter failures resulting in various warning lamps to be illuminated on the instrument panel and the vehicle having reduced power allowing it to only drive a short distance after Toyota's software re-flash "remedy" had been completed. The cover letter of the second briefing to NHTSA states, "lives are needlessly at risk." The dealer currently has over $1,000,000 in Prius inventory on stop sale because he believes the vehicles are dangerous.

In NHTSA complaint 10838647, one Prius driver details the account of his dangerous suspected inverter failure that lead to an injury accident. The driver states Toyota has, "no interest in finding out WHY the car stalled and are attempting only to avoid responsibility for this matter."

Transistors called Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistors, or IGBTs, are located on the Intelligent Power Module within the Prius inverter. IGBTs control the voltage of the electrical current flowing throughout Prius components. Some IGBTs are known for their instability. In their February 2014 Defect Information Report filed with the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration, Toyota states the $80 software update would “prevent damage to the IGBT” which was causing the vehicle to enter a dangerous limp-home mode or to shut down completely.  Approximately 90% of post-E0E inverter failures are repaired by replacing the “Transistor Kit”. Toyota also refers to IGBTs as transistors.

Take a look at photographs of failed post "recall remedy" internal inverter components compared to their brand new replacements here

In anticipation of news articles on the topic Toyota’s Tom Trisdale (Vice-President, Product Quality and Service Support) sent correspondence to Toyota dealers on February 6, 2018 stating, “…the safety recall remedy addresses the safety defect.”

The Statement of Facts from Toyota’s Unintended Acceleration Deferred Prosecution Agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice shows Toyota used similar verbiage during that time. The Statement of Facts, which Toyota has agreed is accurate and true, says Toyota, “misleadingly assured customers that it had addressed the root cause of the unintended acceleration” defect.

Senator Jim Moran of Kansas, a member of the U.S. Senate Commerce subcommittee that oversees NHTSA, has stated he is interested in looking into the potentially inadequate inverter safety recall.

In addition to the dangers of continued power loss and/or shut downs after the completion of the safety recall, there are also assertions that Toyota's software re-flash "remedy" reduces MPG and increases emissions on affected Prius vehicles.

Below are photos of a post-E0E inverter failure in which an electrical arc melted steel bolts and blew two holes through the inverter’s aluminum casing:

 

 

"Kathleen Ryan, a Marina del Rey Prius owner who got the software fix in 2014, was driving in the fast lane on the 91 Freeway in January, cruising along at 70 mph, when suddenly ‘it felt like somebody pulled the emergency brake.’ The car slowed down to 15 mph and Ryan had to cross three lanes of high-speed traffic that was swerving around her slow car."

- February 18, 2018, LA Times Article by Ralph Vartabedian

 

Margaret Long, who lives in Port Charlotte, Fla., was driving to a hospital last August to pick up her husband when she lost power in her 2010 Prius on a busy four-lane highway. Long…was rammed at about 55 miles per hour from behind…Long said the accident cause a cracked vertebra, two cracked ribs and a punctured lung. A head injury from the accident has affected her memory as well.

- April 23, 2018 LA Times article by Ralph Vartabedian

 

Levine and others compare Toyota's software fixes to Apple's secret modification of software that controls the iPhone, slowing down the device as the battery ages and loses its ability to hold a full charge. The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department said in January they were launching investigations into Apple's practices.

- February 18, 2018 LA Times article by Ralph Vartabedian

 

The quick fix adopted by Toyota has been to reset the inverter’s software in order to reduce the likelihood of the transistors being stressed unduly. That has meant lowering the current from the battery and forcing the petrol engine to work harder to compensate—hence the higher fuel consumption and increased exhaust emissions.

- February 18, 2018 LA Times article by Ralph Vartabedian

 

DO CERTAIN PRIUS SUFFER FROM A BRAKE DEFECT, TOO? CLICK HERE TO READ MORE. 

Watch Kris Van Cleave’s CBS This Morning Segment Below

Toyota’s Safe Inverter Assembly

Toyota documents show that more than 800 defective electrical components from Toyota Prius models were returned from dealers to the automaker…over less than a two month period this year after electrical system failures.”

- April 23, 2018, LA Times article by Ralph Vartabedian

  • In April 2014, Toyota changed the part number of their Prius Liftback Inverter Assembly, which includes the Intelligent Power Module (IPM), to G9200-49075. Despite being the same generation and body style, Prius manufactured with inverter assembly part number G9200-49075 have never been subject to a safety recall.
  • During its Sudden Unintended Acceleration scandal, Toyota admitted that it avoided announcing a safety related parts change on its pedals to regulators because it would “most likely mislead the concerned authorities and consumers and such to believe that we have admitted having defective vehicles.”

 

COULD TOYOTA WIND UP BACK IN FRONT OF CONGRESS??? CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT. 

 

Will Toyota Be Forced To Refund The Purchase Prius Less Depreciation for Certain 2010-2014 Prius Vehicles?

  • According the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administrations Safety Recall Compendium, Toyota has three options when fixing a safety defect: repairing the vehicle, replacing the vehicle with an identical or reasonably equivalent vehicle, or refunding the vehicle’s purchase price less reasonable depreciation. Toyota selected the “repairing the vehicle” option regarding the safety defect in their hybrid inverters.

 

  • According the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administrations Safety Recall Compendium, when the repair option is selected it must be done “adequately” and “within a reasonable amount of time.” If that’s not done, according the Compendium Toyota “must replace the item with an identical or reasonably equivalent item or, for a vehicle, refund its purchase price less a reasonable amount for depreciation.”

  • According to one Southern California Toyota Franchisee, his two dealerships have repaired over 100 post-remedy inverter failures. This may be evidence that the “software update” remedy for safety recalls E0E and F0R was inadequate and that the vehicles have not been remedied within a reasonable amount of time.

 

  • Ralph Vartebedian of the LA Times writes that in a less than 60-day period in early 2018 Toyota had sent approximately 800 failed inverters to Exponent – a consulting firm that assisted them during their Unintended Acceleration scandal.

Toyota’s Knowledge of the Inadequate E0E Safety Recall "Remedy"

The problem, in which overheating causes damage to key electrical parts and a resulting loss of power that can leave motorists stranded, has been dogging Toyota for about seven years. But the safety issue is now growing in scope.

- April 23, 2018, LA Times article by Ralph Vartabedian

  • A safety recall repair is legally required to prevent a dangerous situation from occurring. A warranty repair is a reactionary repair completed after the dangerous situation has already occurred.

  • Around August 2014, six months after issuing safety recall E0E, Toyota issued Warranty Enhancement Program ZE3. ZE3 provides coverage for the IPM and “other internal inverter components”, including the MG ECU, for 15 years with no mileage limitation from the date of first use. Prius drivers must have safety recall E0E completed before they can be eligible for the ZE3 warranty enhancement.
  • Toyota states the Diagnostic Trouble Codes, or DTC codes, are the same for a pre-E0E inverter failure and a post-E0E inverter failure. Toyota states the DTC codes on a pre-E0E inverter failure will be P0A94, P3004, P0A1A, and P324E. Toyota states the DTC codes on a post-E0E failure covered under the ZE3 warranty enhancement will be P0A94, P3004, P0A1A, and P324E.

 

  • In the Frequently Asked Questions of the ZE3 Warranty Enhancement Toyota states, “This Warranty Enhancement Program only applies to vehicles that have exhibited the condition described above.” Prius drivers with the E0E software re-flash “remedy” completed must experience an inverter failure before Toyota will provide a new inverter assembly or internal inverter components.
  • Toyota distributed post-E0E inverters and internal inverter components through a system called “manual allocation control”. Toyota required dealers to send an email with the VIN number and the reason the Prius needed an inverter repair (i.e. a post-E0E inverter failure) before they would send the replacement inverter assembly or internal inverter components.
  • In addition to the Manual Allocation Control emails, Toyota documents all post-E0E inverter failure warranty claims filed by its dealers. These warranty claims require Toyota-issued op codes specifying the completed repair. Often the post-E0E failed inverters and components, like the one below, were shipped back to Toyota.
LATimesDefectiveInverter (2)

Toyota Represents to NHTSA the Software Update "Remedy" Will Keep Prius Liftback out of Limp Home Mode

"I've never lost power before," Anderson said, adding that the experience left her shook up. "I just thought, 'Please, God, let me out of here.' I was lucky I wasn't on the freeway"

- February 7, 2018, LA Times article by Ralph Vartabedian

  • In NHTSA’s E0E Recall Acknowledgement  sent by Jennifer Timian to Toyota’s Abbas Saadat on February 13, 2014, NHTSA states the Problem Description of the E0E safety defect as, “various warning lamps will be illuminated on the instrument panel and the vehicle will have reduced power allowing it to only drive a short distance.”
  • Toyota also refers to Limp Home Mode as Fail Safe mode. Toyota describes Limp Home Mode as a form of “vehicle self-protection” in which the vehicle may “reduce available power to minimize potential component damage.” Toyota also states when the Prius enters limp home mode due to inverter failure, “…you will notice a reduction of power and speed.” Many warning lamps also illuminate on the dashboard.
  • Another characteristic of post-E0E “remedy” limp home mode is a vehicle shut down  when the Prius battery runs out.
  • Toyota’s Defect Information Report states, “It was found that excessive thermal stress could be exerted on IGBTs…causing the IGBT to slightly deform and eventually become damaged. The damage resulted in illumination of warning lights and the vehicles entering fail-safe mode.”
  • In its Defect Information Report, in the February 6, 2014 section, Toyota represents that the E0E software update will, “prevent damage to the IGBT”. According to Toyota’s own verbiage, “preventing damage” to the IGBT would have prevented Prius vehicles from experiencing the power loss associated with limp-home (aka fail-safe mode) as a result of an inverter failure. This Southern California Dealer has documented over 100 cases  of post-E0E inverter failures in which the Prius vehicles shut down or entered limp-home mode.
  • Vehicles without the safety recall remedy already had limp-home capabilities. In its Defect Information Report Toyota states they, “could not identify any scenario in which the vehicle would not enter a fail-safe mode when the IGBT(s) used for operation of the boost converter became damaged.”

Deformed and Damaged IGBTs (Transistors)

According to University of Michigan electrical engineering professor Heath Hofmann, a hybrid systems consultant, the auto industry is trying to find a substitute for the transistors, which are prone to high temperatures.

- February 7, 2018, LA Times article by Ralph Vartabedian

  • According to Toyota, IGBTs are transistors located in the Intelligent Power Module (IPM) inside the inverter assembly. IGBTs, otherwise referred to by Toyota as transistors, play a vital role in managing the high voltage electrical currents that power the Prius vehicles. With its E0E safety recall “remedy”, Toyota represents that it is safe to only re-flash the software for a deformed IGBT (transistor) – not replace the hardware.
  • Toyota will not classify a “deformed” IGBT’s as “damaged” IGBTs until the Prius experiences an inverter failure in which warning lights illuminate and the vehicle has reduced power allowing it to only drive a short distance. If a Toyota Prius with a deformed IGBT(s) has not yet experienced an inverter failure leading to illumination of warning lights and limp home mode when presented for the E0E safety recall, that Prius would have only received the $80 software re-flash remedy - not a new inverter assembly which costs Toyota approximately $3,000 per replacement.
  • Toyota’s E0E safety recall “remedy” did not include an inspection of the IGBT (transistor) to check for existing deformation before performing the software re-flash.
  • In its Defect Information Report, in the February 6, 2014 section, Toyota represents that the E0E software update will, “prevent damage to the IGBTs” (transistors). Approximately 90% of post E0E remedy inverter failures are repaired by replacing the “Transistor Kit” . Transistor kit can also be described as an IGBT kit. Toyota’s part number for the kit is 04899-47021.
  • In its Defect Information Report, in the February 6, 2014 section, Toyota represents that the E0E software update will, “prevent damage to the IGBTs” (transistors). As called out by the Warranty Information section of Toyota’s Technical Service Bulletin 0036-16 , a vast majority of the post-remedy inverter failures are repaired through Op Code EL 1603 (“R & R the IPM Transistor”) or EL 1604 (“R & R the IPM Transistor and the MG ECU”). Toyota refers to IGBTs as transistors.
  • In Toyota’s February 12, 2014 Defect Information Report, in the July 2013 – early February 2014 section, Toyota states “as a result of further testing and an exploration of all possible outcomes, Toyota found that, in limited instances, when the IGBT becomes damaged, the motor/generator control ECU, could be exposed to electrical transients generated by large current flowing through the boost converter. These transients could cause a specific microchip in the ECU to reset itself, resulting in the hybrid system shutting down rather than going into fail-safe mode.” Toyota represented that its software re-flash would “prevent damage to the IGBT” and thereby prevent the MG ECU from experiencing a reset. Approximately 40% of post E0E remedy Prius vehicles required an MG ECU replacement .

The Dangers of Limp-Home (aka Fail-Safe) Driving Mode

"I've never lost power before," Anderson said, adding that the experience left her shook up. "I just thought, 'Please, God, let me out of here.' I was lucky I wasn't on the freeway

-February 7, 2018, LA Times article by Ralph Vartabedian

  • In addition to the warning lights and buzzers, reduction of power, reduction of speed, and potential vehicle shut down associated with post-E0E limp home mode, approximately 80% of post-E0E inverter failures result in the “prohibition” of ABS (anti-lock Brakes), BA (Brake Assist), VSC (Vehicle Stability Control), and TRAC (Traction Control).
  • Toyota issued a Safety Recall  on certain 2012-2013 Tacoma and Rav4 vehicles because the loss of ABS, VSC, and TRAC “could increase the risk of a crash.”  The defect did not describe the additional loss of power associated with post-remedy Prius inverter failure limp-home mode.
  • Toyota’s Defect Information Report, in the July 2012 – June 2013 section, states “The fail-safe mode allows the vehicle to be safely operated at reduced speeds.” If you are driving at an accelerated speed when your vehicle enters fail-safe mode, your Prius can not be operated safely.
  • One Prius driver was rear-ended by a vehicle traveling at highway speeds after his Prius lost power in limp-home mode. Read his recap of the accident here .

What is an Inverter?

Toyota Changes the E0E Recall Remedy from Replacing the Inverter Assembly to Replacing Components

  • Toyota’s E0E safety recall customer letter  stated, “…the dealer will replace the inverter assembly…” Toyota issued updated information to its dealers changing the E0E safety recall remedy from replacing the inverter assembly to “repairing or replacing” the inverter assembly. Now, many Prius drivers only get components such as an IPM or an MG ECU instead of a new inverter assembly.
  • As recently as February 2018, NHTSA’s Safercar.gov website  stated the E0E remedy for Prius owners who experience an inverter failure before completing E0E was a new inverter assembly – not internal components. The remedy for E0E on safercar.gov has recently been altered  to state “repair or replace” the inverter assembly.
  • Toyota’s Technical Service Bulletin 0092-14 , issued around August 2014, informed its dealers that, “sub-component diagnosis and replacement is now available for the Hybrid Inverter with Converter assembly equipped on 2010-2015 mode year Prius…” Eligible customers no longer receive an inverter assembly as part of the E0E remedy. They receive internal inverter components like IPMs and MG ECUs.
  • Toyota issues Technical Service Bulletin 0036-16 which directs its dealers to perform inverter replacements or repairs of internal inverter components based on the registered Diagnostic Trouble Codes and sub codes.

Toyota’s Recall “Addresses” The Inverter Safety Defect

  • In anticipation of news articles on the topic Toyota’s Tom Trisdale (Vice-President, Product Quality and Service Support) sent correspondence  to Toyota dealers on February 6, 2018 stating, “…the safety recall remedy addresses the safety defect.” The Statement of Facts from Toyota’s Unintended Acceleration Deferred Prosecution Agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice shows Toyota used similar verbiage during that time. The Statement of Facts, which Toyota has agreed is accurate and true, says Toyota, “misleadingly assured customers that it had addressed  the root cause of the unintended acceleration” defect.

What Does the E0E “Remedy” Software Update Actually Do?

"When implemented, the software change lessens the likelihood of a failure…”

-Toyota Los Angeles Region General Manger Alec Hagey , October 27, 2017

IPM Failure Before E0E Re-Flash

IPM Failure After E0E Re-Flash

Various Warning Lamps Illuminate

Various Warning Lamps Illuminate

Prius enters Limp-Home aka Fail Safe Mode

Reduction in power

Reduction in speed

Reduction in drivability

Frequent loss of ABS, BA, VSC, and TRAC

Prius enters Limp-Home aka Fail Safe Mode

Reduction in power

Reduction in speed

Reduction in drivability

Frequent loss of ABS, BA, VSC, and TRAC

Potential Complete Shut Down of Prius

Potential Complete Shut Down of Prius

DTC codes P0A94, P0A1A, P3004, and P324E

DTC codes P0A94, P0A1A, P3004, and P324E

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