New regulations in the EU will now require all electric cars sold in the region to make artificial noises under certain conditions. The new rules will make it mandatory for all new electric and hybrid cars to have Acoustic Vehicle Alert Systems also known as AVAS. All existing EVs in the region will also have to get the system installed by 2021. The EU wants EVs to make a sound using the AVAS while traveling under 12 mph and when in reverse.
Electric cars don’t have internal combustion engines like regular vehicles. They are therefore very quiet and this may pose a few risks to other road users, especially blind people. Adding some kind of noise to these cars is seen as a safety feature. Manufacturers of EVs will get to decide what kind of sound to use for their AVAS systems. However, EU rules have made it clear that the sounds used must be similar or louder than the noise made by a traditional combustion engine. The goal is to make it clear to pedestrians that there’s a vehicle nearby. This will help limit potential accidents involving EVs.
Electric cars, due to their lack of noise, are more likely to cause pedestrian-related accidents. In fact, a nonprofit organization in the UK called Guide Dogs noted in written submissions to the British Parliament that electric and hybrids cars are 40% more likely to cause a pedestrian-related accident compared to traditional combustion engine vehicles. A number of manufacturers have already revealed how they intend to make their EVs sound. Jaguar, for instance, has already announced that its new EV dubbed the I-Pace will come fitted with an artificial sound system.
But some manufacturers are taking it to a whole new level. Nissan, for example, announced a new concept vehicle in 2017 that actually sings as it drives. The company also noted that the singing sound will only be activated when the car hits speeds of between 20 kph and 30 kph. Electric carmakers have been grappling with the issue of noise for a while now. First, a lot of potential buyers have complained that they miss the roaring sound of a combustion engine. So the fact that EVs are quiet hasn’t really been a huge selling point. There’s also the issue of pedestrian safety. The roaring sound of a combustion engine is probably the clearest sign there’s a car around. Most people will actually hear a car first before they see it.
There have also been studies showing that quiet EVs could potentially be involved in pedestrian accidents. This is the main reason why many regulators in the US and now in the EU are requesting that EVs produce noise when they hit certain speed thresholds. The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, for instance, issued new directives requiring all EVs made in and after 2019 to emit sound at under 19 miles per hour.