U.S. House Votes to Require Sound From EVs, Hybrids

Hybrid and electric vehicles may be much less harmful to the earth than standard internal combustion vehicles, but their stealthy driving characteristics aren’t necessarily as nice to pedestrians. The United States House of Representatives recently addressed the ongoing issue by passing a bill requiring all electric and hybrid vehicles emit an artificial noise to inform surrounding pedestrians, especially the blind, that they’re approaching.

The U.S. House of Representatives recently voted 379-30 in favor of a federal bill that would require all hybrid and electric vehicles sold to produce a minimum level of sound. Over the next 18 months the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will develop “performance requirements for an alert sound that allows blind and other pedestrians to reasonably detect a nearby electric or hybrid vehicle operating.”

At high speeds, tire noise is generally a good indicator that a vehicle is approaching, but at low speeds, blind pedestrians generally rely heavily on engine noise to detect nearby vehicles. Electric vehicles produce no audible sound, and many hybrids can operate with virtually no noise at low speeds. While blind pedestrians rely on audible indicators of traffic patterns, those of us who see also use sound to navigate. The implementation of sound on electric and hybrid vehicles will help pedestrians and bicyclists alike be wary of moving traffic.

While a minimum sound level will be enforced, excessive noise will also be considered. Under the new law, the NHTSA will “determine the minimum level of sound emitted from a motor vehicle that is necessary to provide blind and other pedestrians with the information needed to reasonably detect a nearby electric or hybrid vehicle operating” but also must “consider the overall community noise impact.”

The Nissan Leaf was engineered to automatically produce a sound while operating at low speeds. Chevrolet Volt owners on the other hand must activate the noise manually.

The passing of the bill “will allow us to continue to promote our energy independence and technological innovation while safeguarding those who use senses other than sight to navigate the roads,” remarked the bill’s chief promoter Senator John Kerry.

Source: The Detroit News