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.