U.S. Government: Electric and Hybrid Cars Aren't Noisy Enough

New federal proposal would require all electric and hybrid cars to make noise at low speeds.

Posted in News

— The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has proposed that hybrid and electric vehicles meet minimum sound standards so pedestrians can hear approaching vehicles traveling at low speeds.

Electric and hybrid vehicles do not rely on traditional gas or diesel-powered engines at low speeds, making them much quieter and their approach difficult to detect, especially by people who are hearing impaired. The proposed standard would fulfill Congress' mandate in the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010.

Under the current proposal, the sounds would need to be detectable under a wide range of street noises and other background sounds when the vehicle is traveling under 18 miles per hour.  At 18 miles per hour and above, electric and hybrid vehicles make enough noise to allow pedestrians and bicyclists to detect them without added sound.

Each automaker would have a range of choices about the sounds it chooses for its vehicles, but the characteristics of those sounds would need to meet certain minimum requirements. In addition, each vehicle of the same make and model would need to emit the same sound or set of sounds.

NHTSA estimates that adding sound to these vehicles could lead to 2,800 fewer pedestrian and bicyclist injuries over the life of each model year vehicle.

Click here to listen to a sample sound.