New electric and hybrid cars will have to emit engine-like noises by 2019. That's according to a mandate from the European Commission, which wants all new electric vehicles to increase their noise in order to drive down accidents involving deaf or blind pedestrians.
That means models like the Volkswagen e-up, where a sound symposer is currently optional, will have to offer the system as standard across Europe, although Volkswagen officials told Autocar that implementing the new ruling would be "no problem". Other manufacturers including Renault have welcomed the plan. The firm's Renault Zoe EV already comes equipped with sound symposers. However, the Renault Twizy currently doesn't.
Elsewhere, Vauxhall said the sound system equipped on its Ampera had been "designed with blind people in mind", while Nissan had developed the sounds in its Nissan Leaf model "in response to public concern about the quietness of EVs and hybrids". The Leaf's sound symposer works at speeds below 25mph and can also be turned off by the driver, something which wouldn't be allowed under the new rules.
The European Council is expected to give the legislation a green light in the coming months, with the plan already meeting with the approval of the European Parliament.
A spokesman from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders told Autocar: “Advances [in safety technology] have helped reduce UK road accidents by a third, so the industry is supportive of moves to ensure vehicles can be heard. Many electric vehicles are already equipped with systems to alert pedestrians when travelling at low speeds, so this latest set of legislation will ensure a level playing field for all manufacturers as they develop new and existing vehicles.”
Similar laws already exist in the US, where all electric vehicles must emit a noise at speeds below 18mph. Such models already sold in both the US and Europe include the Ampera's sister car, the Chevrolet Volt, as well as the Volkswagen e-Golf.