Published: Wed, November 16, 2016
Tech | By Dwayne Harmon

NHTSA requires EVs, hybrids to make noise

NHTSA requires EVs, hybrids to make noise

Electric cars and hybrid vehicles can be incredibly quiet - so quiet that a populace used to cars that make noise can be hurt when sharing space with them.

Automakers will have until Sept. 1, 2019, to meet the requirement, although the U.S. Department of Transportation said half of their electric and hybrid fleets must have audible alerts by September 2018.

Known as the "quiet car" rule, the new law will only apply to four-wheeled vehicles with a gross weight below 10,000 pounds, meaning that two-wheeled models, such as the anticipated Vespa Elettrica, will be permitted to run silently.

The new standard says that all new four-wheeled hybrid and electric light vehicles must be equipped by September 1, 2019, with a device that makes an audible noise when the auto is moving forward or in Reverse up to about 19 miles per hour (officially 30 kph).

"This is a common-sense tool to help pedestrians - especially folks who are blind or have low vision - make their way safely", explained NHTSA administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind in a statement published online.

The studies are not new, and Honda was aware of the concern as early as 1994 when it filed a patent for a simulated EV noise generator to let drivers and nearby pedestrians know the operating conditions of a vehicle.

The rule does not mandate a single sound, though one could become the default. This will help prevent about 2400 pedestrians injuries every year. What the NHTSA is referring to is "a sound requirement" that has a highly precise goal.

"We all depend on our senses to alert us to possible danger", Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. For most companies, this will be done by installing small, external waterproof speakers somewhere outside of each vehicle at an estimated cost of around $23 million in the first year.

The Alliance worked closely with the National Federation of the Blind to support the Congressional legislation that directed NHTSA to develop this standard. The NHTSA feels that road and wind noise generated at those higher speeds provide enough warning to pedestrians. Additionally, just as current conventionally-powered vehicles sound differently than one another, it's critical that the noise requirements for their electrically powered counterparts are not so rigid they require a single sound signature.

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