What will electric cars sound like now audible warnings are mandatory?

New EU law aims to ease concerns that quiet EVs put pedestrians at risk

Jaguar I-Pace
Jaguar has already released an audible warning system for its I-Pace EV
(Image credit: Jaguar)

Electric cars will be making even more of an impact from today as carmakers are now required by law to install pedestrian warning sounds.

The new rules, introduced by the European Union and which come into force today, will force manufacturers to fit an “Acoustic Vehicle Alerting System” (AVAS) on electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrids to warn pedestrians and cyclists that the otherwise silent vehicles are approaching, Auto Express reports.

When a car is running on electric power alone, a noise will be emitted at a speeds up to 12mph, the motoring magazine says, and when the vehicle is reversing.

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The new law means that all electrified vehicles produced from 1 July must be equipped with an AVAS. From July 2021, every new EV registered must be equipped with the warning systems.

Why have the sounds been introduced?

As the BBC reports, the mandatory warning sounds have been introduced to ease concerns that electrified vehicles are “too quiet” and could be “putting pedestrians at risk because they cannot be heard as they approach”.

The law has been welcomed by the Guide Dogs charity, which raised concerns about it being difficult to hear electrified vehicles approaching, the broadcaster adds. However, the charity argues that EVs should emit a sound at all speeds.

Meanwhile, the Department for Transport’s roads minister, Michael Ellis, said the Government “understands the concerns of the visually impaired about the possible hazards posed by quiet electric vehicles.

“This new requirement will give pedestrians added confidence when crossing the road,” he said.

What will warnings systems sound like?

Carmakers will mostly be given free rein over what sounds their vehicles can produce, although there are some regulations that they must abide by.

The warning systems must emit a sound between 56 and 75 decibels, depending on the power-to-weight ratio of the car, according to Auto Express. It means that heavier electric cars will emit a sound akin to a combustion-engined vehicle travelling at 65mph that is 25 feet away.

The sounds must also “be easily indicative of vehicle behaviour” and change in frequency depending on the speed of the car, the magazine says. The rules also allow companies to adapt their EVs to sound like combustion-engined cars.

A number of carmakers have already released vehicles with noise generators.

The Jaguar I-Pace, for instance, uses a futuristic synthesised sound that’s emitted from a single speaker tucked behind the front grille.

During testing, the company used a sound akin to a UFO, though the noise was ultimately scrapped as pedestrians “kept looking up when they heard the noise”, says CNet.

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