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Europe makes noise over EV sound laws

Come on feel the noise: Electric vehicle maker Fisker added a low hum to its Karma sports coupe to warn pedestrians that it was on the move.

EU says all electric cars must make synthetic low-speed noise from 2019

4 Apr 2014

ELECTRIC sports cars may soon have to roar with the bellow of a Ferrari V12 at low speeds under new legislation gaining approval in Europe.

The European Union has passed laws that will require car-makers to fit new generations of electric vehicles with speakers to mimic the sound of a comparable conventionally engined car.

The union yesterday voted in favour of passing the law designed to protect hearing-impaired pedestrians who may not hear one of the near-silent electric vehicles creeping up behind them.

A previous directive from the EU had called for a voluntary system that relied on car-makers assessing whether the battery or fuel cell-powered vehicle required an artificial noise to make it safe around pedestrians.

However, under the now-compulsory laws the “acoustic vehicle alerting system”, as the unit will be known, will need to be fitted to all electric cars sold in the European Union member states from 2019. The vehicle will need to generate artificial noise at speeds of up to 20km/h.

Ironically, the EU also wants car-makers to reduce engine noise from petrol- and diesel-powered cars by 25 per cent by the same deadline.

According to the EU, the noise electric vehicles will be required to make “should be a continuous sound that provides information to the pedestrians and vulnerable road users of a vehicle in operation.

“The sound should be easily indicative of vehicle behaviour and should sound similar to the sound of a vehicle of the same category equipped with an internal combustion engine,” draft version of the legislation said.

Vehicles such as the Karma, built by the failed US-based EV maker Fisker, did incorporate artificial sounds at low speeds to alert pedestrians. The Fisker sound provided a constant, unwavering electronic hum at speeds below 25km/h.

In Australia, car-makers take different approaches to how they warn pedestrians.

Nissan’s Leaf electric car emits a series of beeps to alert pedestrians of its approach, while the Holden Volt petrol-electric hybrid will make a low noise via the horn when a button is pushed.

Mitsubishi’s recently launched petrol-electric hybrid Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, meanwhile, makes a low, constant tone at speeds below 35km/h that rises in pitch if the vehicle accelerates under full electric mode.

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