Electric cars are paving the way for the future of motoring, but as with anything new, there are always teething issues. One such concern with electric cars is how quiet they are and the increased risk this poses to pedestrians and cyclists. This is because they cannot hear the vehicle approaching or backing up; with vulnerable road users like the visually impaired being at even greater risk.
This concern has been taken very seriously by various countries and has led to an EU mandate that all new hybrid and electric vehicles are legally required to emit an audible sound.
The law came into force on 1st July, and the UK has adopted the rule with the Department for Transport saying that by doing so, the UK has “cemented its position as a global leader in the transition to zero-emission transport”.
It requires every new hybrid or electric to be fitted with an Acoustic Vehicle Alert (AVAS) to produce an external sound that is audible. The system must work up to speeds of up 12mph and whenever the car is reversing.
The sound produced must be at least 56db, a similar volume to an electric toothbrush, but must not exceed 75db which is the equivalent to a conventional car.
The mandate also states that a continuous sound must be produced and it should help pedestrians and cyclists to identify the driving behaviour of the vehicle. In effect, this means the sound should vary in volume and pitch to indicate the different movements of the car, i.e. progressively louder when accelerating thereby mimicking the effect produced by a conventional fuel vehicle.
The AVAS system uses speed sensors and sensors on the accelerator pedal to produce these varying sounds.
As the law only states an audible exterior sound should be produced, anyone looking to enjoy quieter motoring when switching to an electric or hybrid car can rest assured that the cabin will remain blissfully quiet.
The new law only applies to vehicles that have four or more wheels, so electric motorcycles will not be required by law to produce audible operating sounds.
DFT roads minister, Michael Ellis, has said the introduction of the legislation is a positive step as the system would “give pedestrians added confidence when crossing the road.”