NHTSA establishes "quiet car" rule - an EV must make noise after 2019

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【Summary】 The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced new rule to require that EV and hybrid cars must make noise after 2019.

Original Claire    Nov 23, 2016 7:25 PM PT
NHTSA establishes

After establishing a detailed 15-point checkup regulation on driverless cars, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is announcing another new rule on minimum sound requirements regarding EV and hybrid vehicles.

The new law addresses the fact that many electric or hybrid vehicles often produce much less noise than combustion engine vehicles - especially when moving at low speed. Under the new regulation, all hybrid and electric light vehicles with four wheels and a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less will be required to make audible noise when traveling in reverse or forward at speeds up to 30 kilometers per hour (about 19 miles per hour). At higher speeds, the sound alert is not required because other factors, such as tire and wind noise, which provide adequate audible warning to pedestrians.

The new rule has set a deadline to automakers: September 1st, 2019. A transition period less than three years will be given by the federal government to all parties to make adjustments. By that time, all EVs and hybrids should make noise when travelling below the above mentioned speed.

"We all depend on our senses to alert us to possible danger," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "With more, quieter hybrid and electrical cars on the road, the ability for all pedestrians to hear as well as see the cars becomes an important factor of reducing the risk of possible crashes and improving safety."

NHTSA stressed that by implementing the new rule, about 2,400 pedestrian injuries will be prevented each year. Cars equipped with sound-alerting systems will be a common-sense tool to help pedestrians make their way safely. This is especially important for people who are blind or have poor vision.

The finalized regulation has come a long way. Back in 2010, Congress passed the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act, which gave room NHTSA to finalize a mandatory rule for EV noisemakers by January 2014. However, the government kept pushing back the deadline until recently.

United States is not the only country to pay attention to EV warning sounds. Early in 2010, Japan issued guidelines for such warning devices. The European Parliament also approved legislation in 2014, which requires the mandatory use of "Acoustic Vehicle Alerting Systems" for all new electric and hybrid electric vehicles within five years.

Currently, quite a few car manufacturers have already made adjustments on EV noisemakers even before the law makes its debut. Nissan's Leaf and Kia's Soul EV have had noisemakers for years now. Chevrolet Volt, Honda, Hyundai and Toyota also installed manually activated electric warning sounds in some of their car models. Tesla Motors and Volkswagen do not include warning sounds in their EVs as of yet, but they are set to make appropriate adjustments in due course.  

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