Under new EU law, all new Electric vehicles (EVs) will be required to make warning noises for pedestrian safety.
The ruling will be in place for all four-wheeled fully electric and hybrid vehicles that go on sale from July 1.
Under the EU Regulation on the Sound Level of Motor Vehicles and EU Requirement ECE R138, electrified vehicles must have an Acoustic Vehicle Alert System (AVAS) that activates at speeds below 20kph (12mph) and be at a minimum noise level of 56dB.
Noise control experts IAC Acoustics say that 60dB would be the equivalent of conversation in an office or standing 100ft from an air conditioning unit, and about half as noisy as a vacuum cleaner.
Some car models already have ACAS fitted to their vehicles, including the Nissan Leaf, Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and Jaguar I-Pace, although these sound systems can be manually switched off, which has been the root of disapproval from campaigners.
Hugh Huddy, from the RNIB, said: “The very low sound levels on electric and hybrid cars make them a potential danger to blind and partially sighted pedestrians like me, because we need the sound of a vehicle to know it is there.
“I recently experienced first-hand how the dangers of a quiet car can play out on a zebra crossing. Having listened for traffic and heard nothing coming, I proceeded to cross, but my cane became jammed under the rear wheel of a car silently moving off the zebra, which broke the end of my white cane.
“However, the outcome could have been a lot worse and as the number of electric and hybrid vehicles on the road increases, we urge manufacturers to equip them with effective audible warning sounds, so blind and partially sighted pedestrians can hear them and avoid them when crossing roads and shared spaces.”
Back in March, audio company Harman announced its experiments with AVAS, demonstrating a Tesla Model S that could emit the sound of a V8 petrol engine.
As the rules explicitly allow automakers to give drivers a choice of engine sounds, could unique offerings present an opportunity for manufacturers to stand out from the crowd?
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