In a move aimed at reducing the silent danger from electric and hybrid cars, the European Commission is considering rules that will require these vehicles to emit an artificial noise to alert pedestrians to their presence. The regulation does not specify what the noise should sound like, only the minimum volume. As a result, some car manufacturers have been having a little fun with the type of sound their vehicles will emit. Matthew Reed from Lotus Engineering indicated that their new Evora 414E Hybrid will use a “futuristic sound a bit like Star Wars”.
The European noise regulation is in response to growing evidence of the risk posed to pedestrians from battery powered cars. A University of California at Riverside study recently found that a internal-combustion car could be heard at 28 feet away, but that a hybrid operating in silent battery mode could not be heard until it was only seven feet away.
Despite this danger, critics contend that the widespread adoption of hybrid and electric vehicles has steadily been removing a major source of noise pollution from the environment and that by artificially requiring these cars to make noise, those gains will be erased. In the hopes of mitigating this concern, the noise making technologies being implemented by the car manufacturers focus the artificial sound only in the direction the car is moving.
In addition to Europe, similar plans are also currently being considered in the United States and Japan.