NHTSA to require noise from quiet electric vehicles

Blog Post created by andrewklock Employee on Jul 15, 2011

One of the most important things that EV Safety Training’s curriculum for first responders teaches is that hybrid and electric vehicles—even when running!—are silent. While these silent engines could present a danger to first responders, they could also be dangerous to pedestrians, especially those who don’t always take the time to look both ways before crossing the street.

To address this potential hazard, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced on Thursday that it has proposed sound regulations to protect pedestrians from accidents involving hybrids and electric vehicles. These regulations come in the wake of the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010, which established a standard that requires EVs and hybrids to make some kind of sound to alert pedestrians, but as of yet there are no regulated levels of volume or uniformity in those sounds.

According to the New York Times, The NHTSA plans to survey the impact of any proposed noises on community environments, analyze this feedback, and begin to create regulations by July of 2012. The rule establishing the standards is expected to be published by January of 2014.

What sort of sound do you think electric vehicles should make? Should it be regulated to sound similar to an internal combustion engine, or should it be customizable, like a ringtone? We asked that question on NFPA's Facebook page - and here are some of the responses we got:

  • "Get clothespins and playing cards?"
  • "A buzzing sound works fine , except someone might think its a giant bug and try to smash it lol"
  • "Make it sound like a motorcycle... Ask any biker and they'll tell you.. "Loud Pipes Save Lives"."
  • "A digitized recording that is about as loud as a new auto; it doesn't have to be LOUD but about the same as current vehicles. The recording could be a voice saying "Be careful. An Electric (Tesla, Leaf, Volt) is approaching"

We want to hear from you! Click on the "Comments" link below and tell us what you think an EV should sound like.

- Angela Burke