One of the first comments which most people make on their first trip in an electric car usually has something to do with how quiet the vehicle is. But that’s likely to change soon, as the NHTSA is pushing to have noisemakers installed in EVs and hybrids as soon as possible. A report from the New York Times states that the noisemakers are intended as a safety measure for pedestrians and cyclists. The noisemaker will be required only for speeds under 18mph as it’s said that the cars make enough noise on their own at higher speeds. Automakers will be able to choose their own noise, but it will have to meet a set of guidelines laid out by the NHTSA.
The NHTSA claim that this will prevent 2,800 accidents per model year of each model over its lifetime. But real-world evidence to support this claim is seen as flimsy by some, and since new internal combustion cars make so little noise as it is, the difference in decibel levels isn’t so great. Of course, this wouldn’t be the first time the NHTSA has declared something a terrible safety hazard when the evidence was far from conclusive. Accident statistics have not been kind to the legacy of the 55mph national speed limit, and it seems like acting before there is any kind of known problem is what the NHTSA does best. Of course, even though noisemakers will be a new thing in the electric car arena, there are already cars which play pre-recorded engine noises. It’s not an uncommon thing in performance cars for the speakers to play engine noises for the driver at higher engine speeds. Because these seem to match engine speeds, most drivers don’t even realize the sound is artificial. It can, therefore be done subtly enough that you might not even notice the difference. Whether subtle is what the NHTSA has in mind remains to be seen.