I’ve just spent two fascinating days driving and learning about a brace of vehicles from Renault’s new electric range – the Fluence ZE, which you can read about here, and the Kangoo ZE light van.
One of the main things that struck me about the Fluence ZE – which is billed as the first electric three-box family saloon – is the relaxing driving experience.
While at first the smooth power delivery and lack of noise is slightly unnerving, it soon becomes a charming part of the car’s character.
For the occupants, electric vehicles such as the Fluence ZE offer an almost noise-free environment, with just a faint whine from the single-gear transmission and the sound of tyres on the road.
I was surprised that during a test drive on a quiet stretch of road, several pedestrians and cyclists turned around to look as I approached in the Fluence ZE.
I wonder if road users are so used to hearing the burble of an engine combined with road noise, their senses are alerted when one sound is absent. It seemed to be especially true with cyclists, who probably have a heightened awareness of cars approaching from behind.
Of course, in a built-up area with plenty of other noisy distractions, an EV’s presence would be impossible to detect. There is a concern that the lack of noise could be an issue for road users.
At present, there is no official European legislation dictating whether EVs should make a noise to alert other road users to their presence.
The subject is being researched, and most manufacturers don’t install noises into their cars because they are waiting for a clear directive from rulemakers. Engineering a ‘bing’ in your new EV only for the EU to later legislate that it needs go ‘bong’ would be rather inconvenient…
Great fun could be had if electric cars had to be fitted with a switch that enabled a range of noises to be activated. A swarm of angry bees would capture the attention of most pedestrians, or the barking of a rabid dog. Or maybe every EV should simply adopt the rousing symphonic soundtrack of a Ferrari 458…