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Safety fears add noise to electric vehicles

New EU regulations require EV manufacturers to fit noise generators to alert pedestrians.

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Potential dangers to pedestrians from virtually silent electric vehicles have sparked new regulations from the EU.

From July, all new electrified vehicles will be required to emit a noise at low speeds to warn pedestrians of their presence. The ruling will include hybrids, which typically run on full-electric mode at slow speeds, such as in car parks where there are many pedestrians.

Under the new EU Regulation, electrified vehicles will be required to have an Acoustic Vehicle Alert System (AVAS) that activates at speeds below 20kph (12mph) and produces a minimum noise level of 56dB.

EU regulations will continue to apply to new cars in Britain regardless of what happens with Brexit, as the government has already signalled its intention for UK automotive regulations to remain aligned with EU rules.

According to noise control experts IAC Acoustics, 60dB is the equivalent of conversation in an office or standing 100ft from an air conditioning unit, and about half as loud as a vacuum cleaner.

The regulation states that the AVAS should emit a noise that is “a continuous one providing the vehicle driving behaviour to other road users and pedestrians”. Effectively the sound level should increase and decrease in relation to the vehicle’s speed to convey whether it is accelerating, decelerating, or travelling at a consistent speed.

Some car manufacturers already fit AVAS to their vehicles, such as Jaguar with its I-Pace, which emits a warbling sound below 12mph to warn pedestrians of its approach.

Other AVAS experiments include those by audio company Harman, which in March demonstrated a Tesla Model S that could emit the sound of a V8 petrol engine.

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Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is a road test editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.