EVs and hybrids may soon get a bit louder if a new set of standards proposed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is used. Set to address the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act that passed into law in 2010, the suggested standards will impose minimum sound requirements for electric and hybrid vehicles travelling less than 18 mph – when those vehicles are most likely to creep up on you.
Because electric and hybrid vehicles emit very little noise at slow speeds, the blind and visually impaired have no way of being alerted to their approach. The new standards aim to fix that, and would require all manufacturers to crank up the volume on their electric and hybrid vehicles. In addition to producing a sound when travelling under 18 mph, a vehicle must also be audible in a busy city setting. Automakers will be able to choose from a wide range of sounds, but the sounds characteristics must meet certain minimum requirements. Also, cars of the same make and model must produce the same sound. Above 18 mph, sound production isn’t needed as tire noise and other sounds are loud enough to alert pedestrians and bicyclists.
But even without the standards, automakers have already started developing safety systems that allow their quieter products to be heard by pedestrians. In 2011, Ford reached out to its Facebook fans to find out what type of sound they preferred the Focus Electric to make. Even before that, Lotus began testing an external sound system on a Toyota Prius, which could adjust volume levels based on pedal pressure and was said to be nearly inaudible to the driver.
The NHTSA estimates there would be 2800 fewer pedestrian and cyclist injuries per year with the implementation of these standards. The proposal was recently submitted to the Federal Register, where the public will have the opportunity to read the full article and comment on it once published.