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New Electric Cars Will Emit Noise For Safety Reasons

In contrast to the vision of a quieter, close-future utopia where vehicles pass noiselessly by, a new law means that from 2021, all new four-wheel electric cars will be required to include a noise emitting device so that pedestrians can hear the cars approaching. At low speeds, at least.


The EU rules on the inclusion of a noise that is emitted at low speeds to help safeguard pedestrians dates back to 2014 when MEPs agreed that new models of electric and hybrid vehicles would have to make a noise similar to a combustion engine by 2019 and that all new electric and hybrid cars would need to audible by 2021.

The new legislation, which has been approved by the European Parliament, and has been welcomed by the UK government’s Roads Minister Michael Ellis, will mean the mandatory inclusion and use of Acoustic Vehicle Alerting Systems (Avas).  The Avas will emit a sound like a traditional car engine when the electric vehicle is reversing or travelling below 12mph/19km/h.  With electric engines being virtually silent, the hope is that the new law will reduce the risk posed to pedestrians, and particularly the visually impaired if they are not able to hear an electric car approaching.

Warning Sounds Already Developed

The challenges posed to pedestrian safety by electric vehicles that are ‘too quiet’ have long been anticipated by car manufacturers who have been developing electric warning sounds since 2011.  For example, many Nissan, Chevrolet, Honda, Hyundai, and Toyota models already have the noises. 

Reasons For Move To Electric Cars

The shift towards investment by vehicle manufacturers in electrification is being driven by pressure from regulators in China, Europe and the US to cut carbon emissions from fossil fuels, and plans by China, India, France and the United Kingdom to phase out vehicles powered by combustion engines and fossil fuels between 2030 and 2040.

All the major car manufacturers, including GM, Volkswagen, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar Land Rover, Renault, Nissan, Mitsubishi and Volvo have been investing heavily in electric cars to bring the next wave of profits.  For example, back in January last year, the Ford Motor Co announced its plans to more than double its previously announced target of $4.5 billion investment in electric cars to $11 billion by 2022.  Ford’s aim was to have as many as 40 mainstream, hybrid and fully electric vehicles in its model line-up.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

It may seem a little ironic that instead of being able to completely eradicate the noise pollution of traditional combustion engines, electric engines have ended up being too quiet and will require the specific inclusion of a noise.  Nevertheless, the noise will only be made at low speeds, and drivers will have the power to deactivate the noise-making devices in certain situations.

Car companies have been developing electric vehicles and have known about the need for a noise for many years, and as such, the development and inclusion of such a noise has been part of the overall investment and plans anyway.  The nature of the noise used by each manufacturer may, however, vary and provides another opportunity for differentiation and brand identity as each company works on its own ‘sound signature’.

For pedestrians, the visually impaired, and road safety campaigners, legislation to force companies to include a warning sound in their vehicles is good news and is one way in which road safety can be improved in a new era of electronic transportation.


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