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Quiet electric vehicles must make engine noise to protect pedestrians

Manufacturers of electric vehicles inside the European Union must now fit sound generators to alert other road users and vulnerable pedestrians, under an EU regulation that came into force today (1 July).

Image credit: iStock/nrqemi
It is hoped the new law will improve safety for other road users and visually impaired pedestrians should they not hear the quiet vehicles approaching. 
The acoustic vehicle alert system (AVAS) emits a similar sound to that made by a conventional engine. 
The noise must be generated when the vehicle is reversing or travelling at less than 20 km/h. However, the driver can deactivate the system temporarily. 
Electric and hybrid vehicles such as the Toyota Prius, which is often used by taxi firms and Uber drivers, make little noise. 
According to research from the charity Guide Dogs, pedestrians in the UK are 40% more likely to be hit by a hybrid or electric car than by one with a petrol or diesel engine. 
Road minister Michael Ellis said: “The government wants the benefits of green transport to be felt by everyone and 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.” 
Although Hugh Huddy, policy manager at the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), welcomed the new regulations “after years of campaigning on this issue”, he had reservations. He said: “It will take time for the new AVAS to apply to electric cars everywhere and we remain concerned that existing cars on the roads won’t be fitted with this essential safety feature for years – creating a discrepancy in safety standards on Britain’s roads until 2021.”


Keeley Downey was the former assistant editor of IOSH Magazine. Previously she was editor of Biofuels International, Bioenergy Insight and Tank Cleaning Magazine


  • Just an observation here

    Permalink Submitted by Jeremy Rowland on 2 July 2019 - 01:01 pm

    Just an observation here; but what a crazy world we all live in, most people complain about vehicle noise, now we are moaning that they don't make any noise! To be fair it is a valid point having used Toyota Prius taxis myself I have noticed that they are virtually silent when pulling away under battery power, and yet being able to recall the old battery powered milk floats they were noisy enough to hear without having to have any noise making device fitted.

  • I find that the electric

    Permalink Submitted by Andy Croft on 2 July 2019 - 01:37 pm

    I find that the electric vehicles are no quieter than most modern combustion engine cars and hence do not understand why they are being singled out. It should be against a noise threshold, not type of propulsion. We are going to be in silly position that our electric vehicles will have noise generators fitted whilst the modern vans cars go unheard.


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