Hybrids and Electric Vehicles to be Noisier

One of the cool things about electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrids such as the Toyota Prius that have gas engines that shut off when not needed is how eerily quiet they are. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is concerned that they are TOO quiet.

Sound is an important contributor to road safety for pedestrians. A pedestrian who is distracted – perhaps talking on the phone, or sending a text message – can be brought back to attention by the sound of an approaching car. And sound is, of course, especially important for pedestrians who are blind or visually impaired.

Once hybrid or electric cars have built up some speed wind and road noises generate enough sound themselves that the cars can be heard coming. The NHTSA says the cutoff is around 18 mph. Thus the NHTSA is planning to require hybrids and EVs traveling below that speed to generate noise that can be heard by pedestrians.

Congress directed the NHTSA to take this action in the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act (PSEA) of 2010, which included a requirement that the NHTSA set a minimum sound standard for hybrid and electric vehicles. In line with that requirement the NHTSA has issued a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) inviting comments on the proposed new rules.

The NPRM contains financial calculations on the benefits to society of requiring some kind of noise maker on hybrid and electric vehicles. It calculated that 35 lives would be saved if hybrids and EVs were noisier at slow speeds. It determined that the cost would be around $900,000 per life saved – and since a “statistical life” has a value of $6.3 million, it’s worth spending the money.
It will be interesting to see how car manufacturers deal with the conflict between the marketing advantage of quiet cars and the new regulatory requirements.

If you’ve been injured, whether by a hybrid, an EV, or any other kind of vehicle, contact a New Jersey personal injury attorney at the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Hasson, P.C.


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