The EU has ruled that as of July 2019 all new electric and hybrid vehicles (EV) sold in Europe must emit a noise when travelling slowly. Similarly, EVs already in circulation must be retrofitted with an emitter by 2021. Safety campaigners argue that an EV’s lack of noise make it more likely that pedestrians and cyclists will be hit. When EVs travel below 20mph they can barely be heard, a trait most welcomed due to urban noise pollution.
Blind and partially sighted people, who depend more on listening for oncoming vehicles, are even more at risk of being hit than the average pedestrian. James White, at the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association said: “It is a really important issue, guide dogs are all about giving people confidence and independence and a near miss or an incident with a vehicle of this type could really set people back a long way.”
Option to Deactivate Noise to be Removed
A study shows that pedestrians are 40% more likely to be harmed by an EV than a conventional car, while another suggests that 93% of blind and partially sighted people have had problems with them.
This risk can be highlighted by a tragic example in Japan when a guide dog and its owner were killed by a reversing electric vehicle, whose owner had deactivated its sound emitter.
Thanks to the new EV standards, which will be introduced via an EU directive, the option to pause or deactivate the sound will not be permitted in new vehicles ensuring that safety is put before the driver’s preference.
The Unstoppable Rise of Electric Vehicles
The number of EV’s registered in Britain shot up from 3,400 in 2013 to the current figure of 140,000. Ulrich Spiesshofer, CEO of ABB, the world’s largest supplier of fast-charging points predicted that by 2030 as many as nine million EV’s could be on Britain’s road.
The man responsible for developing and introducing reverse alarms to the UK, Chris Hanson-Abbott, Chairman of Brigade Electronics and advisor to the UN said of EV noise emitters: “The object is to have warnings which are audible, but which are not the least bit environmentally disturbing.”
New Sounds Improvement Over the Current Beep Beep
Some resisted the new regulation over concerns of additional noise pollution, however this no longer seems to be a problem as the agreed standard is to be a mix of tonal sound and white noise. Once the car reaches 20mph, when the tires can be sufficiently heard, the noise emitter will cut out.
The current alert in standard petrol and diesel cars is just tonal, which means it can bounce off hard surfaces making it hard to judge its source. Hanson-Abbot said of the alert: “White sound is very pleasant. It’s the sound of falling water. It’s a huge improvement on the noise emitted by petrol or diesel vehicles because its sound source is directional.”