Articles

Are Electric Cars Too Quiet?

5 minutes

Safety concerns mean that from 2021, all electric cars must have artificial noise added to alert pedestrians and other road users that they’re approaching.

Ask any electric car owner what they love about their EV and chances are the lack of noise will be near the top of the list.

However, the sound of silence will soon be replaced by anything from a hum to a rock-inspired ‘e-sound’  thanks to new rules aimed at improving road safety.

This is because the lack of engine noise means EVs have been identified as posing an increased danger to pedestrians and other road users. 

The blind and visually impaired are considered most at risk as there are currently no audible cues to let them know an electric car is approaching.

All that will now change. A European Union regulation now states that electric cars must be fitted with a noise-emitting device. This is known as an Acoustic Vehicle Alert System, or AVAS for short.

The rule applies to all new electric car models produced from July 1, 2019. All new electric vehicles, not just new models, must have an AVAS by 2021. 

Why is the noise being added?

Their lack of noise means electric vehicles have been linked with an increased risk of being involved in a road accident.

In the UK, the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association launched its Safe and Sound campaign to raise awareness of the issue facing blind and partially sighted people.

A report commissioned by the charity found that quiet hybrid and electric vehicles were 40% more likely to collide with pedestrians than petrol or diesel models. 

In 2014, the European Parliament ruled that all new models of electric and hybrid vehicles must be fitted with an Acoustic Vehicle Alerting System (AVAS) from July 1, 2019.

It means that hybrid and electric cars travelling under 20km/h – equivalent to just over 12mph – must generate artificial noise to help warn pedestrians and other road users.

In the US, electric vehicles are subject to these minimum sound requirements until they reach a speed of 18.6mph. 

These are known as ‘crossover speeds’. When cars travel faster than this, tyre noise, wind resistance and other factors mean there’s no need for an additional, artificial sound.


 

The new law states that hybrid and electric cars in the UK must emit a sound of at least 56 decibels until they reach the crossover speed of just over 12mph.

What noise will EVs make?

The new law states that hybrid and electric cars in the UK must emit a sound of at least 56 decibels until they reach the crossover speed of just over 12mph.

The move led to a fair amount of head-scratching among manufacturers as they tried to decide what their cars should sound like.

Volkswagen said it was aiming for a ‘futuristic’ sound , while Mercedes-Benz opted for an artificial humming noise.

The Jaguar i-PACE has been fitted with a sound that’s been likened to that of a spaceship and changes pitch when the car speeds up or slows down.

Performance brand Mercedes-AMG, meanwhile, hooked up with US rock band Linkin Park in its bid to hit the right note for its electric car range.

Given that 56 decibels is about the same level of noise as an electric toothbrush, it’s unlikely that it will have too much impact on electric car owners who enjoy the quiet life.

More importantly, it should help to keep pedestrians and others safe in an increasingly electric world.

Not made up your mind?

Still undecided about whether making the jump to electric is for you? Why not read our guide to buying an electric car? We also have information on the government grants for EVs that could give you a helping hand.

Already an electric car owner? See how our electrifying insurance cover measures up.

 LV= is not responsible for content on third party websites.