New electric cars will have to produce a sound to warn pedestrians
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New electric cars will have to produce a sound to warn pedestrians

Since this Monday, July 1st, all new electric cars should be legally equipped with a particular sound when reversing or driving slowly.

The Acoustic Vehicle Alert System (AVAS) should alert and protect other road users. But what would the sound be like? And should a Renault sound differently from a Jaguar?

Traffic is one of the most important sources of noise pollution in and around cities and, according to the European Agency for the Environment, it is related to health risks, like cardiovascular diseases.

The increasing popularity of the electric car could be a relief for all those who crave for silence, but the lack of a real car sound can be dangerous for vulnerable road users too.

By 2040, forecasts expect that electric cars will amount to 35% of all car sales worldwide. A major study by the American Ministry of Transport already showed in 2011 that hybrid and electric vehicles are 37% more likely to get involved in accidents with pedestrians compared to cars with a traditional combustion engine. Many studies carried out after have found similar conclusions.

That is why the European Union now imposes the mandatory presence of a recognizable sound in new vehicles.

Within two years, all new electric and hybrid vehicles need to be equipped with a so-called Acoustic Vehicle Alert System to warn pedestrians and cyclists. The system has to produce at least 56 decibels when the car is reversing or driving 0 to 20 km/hour.

Several car manufacturers are still working on the development of a specific sound. In Japan, there are strict rules about the sound of an electric car. It is, for instance, not allowed to use the sound of a natural phenomenon, like the wind or an animal.

In Europe, it needs to be a continuous and progressive sound, no melody, and it has to be easily recognizable. “It has to be similar to a car with a normal combustion engine,” the European regulation prescribes.

The Brussels Times