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New Electric Car Law Introduced to Protect Pedestrians

Electric cars to make fake engine noise so they cannot sneak-up on pedestrians

Audible Visual Alert System explained

Fully electric and hybrid electric cars must make fake engine noises so pedestrians, cyclists, and most notably the visually impaired hear them approach from July 1st 2019, European law confirms. The purpose of the rule – that applies to ‘new types’ of vehicle – is to minimise the number of life threatening collisions.

Consider why. A traditional car is only powered by its internal combustion engine. This engine is reasonably noisy – even at low speed. People in close proximity therefore hear it then stay clear.

In contrast, an electric car is powered by a quiet, stealthy electric motor that offers no such warning. And what about a hybrid? This vehicle has a traditional engine plus an electric motor. Whereas the former makes enough noise, at low speed the vehicle might only be powered by its tricky to hear electric motor.

Jaguar I-PACE ahead of the game

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The Jaguar I-PACE is a fully electric, high performance sports utility vehicle that is too quiet without artificial noise. Its Audible Visual Alert System is the solution. Expect a hum that ‘reflects the character’ of the vehicle’, Jaguar argues. The noise:

  • emerges from a speaker behind the grille
  • is audible from 0 to 20 kph (12.4 mph)
  • can be heard whether travelling forward or back
  • exceeds the 56 decibels required by forthcoming law
  • is not audible within the vehicle
  • cannot be switched off by the driver

Jaguar’s Audible Visual Alert System does more than make a consistent hum. The noise changes to reflect the behaviour of the car. Pedestrians need to know whether it is accelerating, for example. In this scenario the pitch and volume increase. They decrease as the vehicle slows. The changes are immediately obvious.

Jaguar Technical Specialist, Iain Suffield, confirmed that the system is a necessity. ‘The absence of traditional engine noise from electric vehicles creates a problem for vulnerable pedestrians, such as the blind or visually impaired. This is especially true at low speed in towns and car parks’, he suggested.

Charity welcomes noisy electric cars

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Guide Dogs for the Blind commented too. In 2018, it praised the manufacturer for fitting this technology long before it was required by law. John Welsman, Policy Business Partner, emphasised:

‘There are 2 million children and adults in the UK affected by sight loss. That is why Guide Dogs campaigned hard to make it compulsory for quiet vehicles to have sound generating systems built in and switched on – including while stationary at pedestrian crossings. We applaud Jaguar’, John Welsman emphasised. 

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A Neighbour just lost his cat to an EV. It had taken to sleeping under the cars and being alerted by the engine noise, but of course none on an EV. I own two EVs and have always thought manufacturers have missed an opportunity to fit a ‘sounds like’ feature - v6, v8, Porsche, mustang - take your pick and drive your dream.

I fully agree with Stewart. I live on a private road and I have voiced my concern for the safety of the many pet cats, and hedgehogs, that get under the cars. In addition, I have seen children reach under cars to retrieve balls that have gone under them. The noise and vibrations made by petrol/diesel cars have given them a chance to avoid death or injury. Fortunately, we only have one car on our road that is electric and we nave not seen any incidents yet, but that could change and I am really concerned over this possible danger.