Electric vehicles in Europe will have to start getting noisier from 1 July

7 Jun 2019

Image: © Václav Mach/Stock.adobe.com

From 1 July, new EU legislation will require all electric vehicles to emit a sound when going at speeds of 20kph or slower.

While the quietness of electric vehicles (EVs) is often portrayed as a big positive when compared to the louder, more polluting internal combustion engine, it doesn’t always give it an advantage. One of the biggest concerns regarding EVs and public safety, in fact, is that silence for pedestrians.

With pedestrians often distracted by their phones or what they’re listening to, it can be quite easy for a slow-moving EV to not be noticed, potentially resulting in a catastrophe for some. Then, of course, there is the challenge of being visually impaired and potentially not seeing an oncoming EV.

To that end, the EU has passed legislation that means EVs – and specifically those with four wheels or more – must make a noise of at least 56 decibels when travelling at speeds of 20kph or slower.

Does not specify a type of sound

The Acoustic Vehicle Alert System will hopefully alert pedestrians to an oncoming EV, and will rise and fall in pitch depending on how fast the car is going. New Atlas has reported that the legislation will be implemented as soon as 1 July.

As for the loudness of the warning system, 56 decibels won’t be drowning out the surrounding noise of the world, as it is comparable to what you’d hear coming out of an electric toothbrush. Also, as part of the law, no vehicle can exceed 75 decibels, which is quieter than a standard diesel truck passing at around 85 decibels.

Interestingly, the law does not specify what kind of sound the car should make. Instead, it will be left to the manufacturer to decide, leaving much scope for various sounds to fill our streets in the decades ahead.

Some of the major manufacturers have already developed artificial sounds for their EVs, such as Nissan’s recent attempts to create a futuristic sound for its Leaf EV.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic