Should Electric Cars be Forced to Make a Noise?

Do silent cars pose a threat to safety?
Do silent cars pose a threat to safety?

One of the more bizarre aspects of the modern-day electric car industry is the fact that while the cars are nearly silent up to around 17 mph, there are growing calls for noise legislation. The major concern amongst a variety of different groups, including blind charities and charities for the disabled as well as many governments around the world, is safety. We can all hear the modern-day gasoline/petrol car approaching but the same cannot be said of the modern-day electric vehicle, which makes little or no sound until it hits around 17 mph.

Is this really an issue?

The U.S. government has taken on board a number of criticisms from various groups with regard to safety. It seems almost certain now that we will see some form of noise legislation to use as a safety measure and protect the public. The car manufacturers would like to cut off the noise creation at 12.4 mph, while the government is adamant it should be somewhere around 17 mph - the likelihood being that we will find some middle ground.

Official U.S. estimates suggest that there would be 2,800 fewer pedestrian and cyclist accidents per year if electric vehicles made some form of noise. But what form would this noise take?

How should an electric car sound?

A number of surveys across the U.S. with regards to the sound aspect of electric vehicles have brought to light a significant variance in expectations. There are some who automatically expect electric cars to sound like a traditional car, while others are looking more towards ring tone type signature tunes for vehicles.

Quote from ElectricForum.com : "Do you think electric cars should have recorded car noises to warn pedestrians?"

The truth is that unless electric cars are forced to make some kind of traditional car noise how would we subconsciously recognise them coming towards us? If we are depending upon hearing alone then a ring tone, an individual signature for each individual car, or some other form of non-traditional car noise would not have anywhere near the same safety impact. The reality is that if, as seems highly likely, the U.S. government is able to push through some kind of noise legislation for electric cars then we will probably go back to the traditional gasoline/petrol noise.

Does this not defeat the point?

Rather bizarrely, a number of electric car enthusiasts seem to see this lack of noise as one of the major attractions of electric vehicles. Indeed many in the car manufacturing industry also agree with this particular train of thought and we will certainly have a number of months of dispute and discussion in the future.

The truth is that safety does need to come first, we need to accommodate all groups of society, and ultimately the noise is likely to be a traditional engine noise as opposed to some kind of gimmick.

Conclusion

It may seem rather bizarre and in many ways irrelevant but the fact is that silent cars do have major ramifications with regards to the safety of pedestrians and other road users. Subconsciously we depend upon our hearing to recognise an oncoming car, often before we see them, and with this particular safety mechanism gone, surely the risks must increase?