NHTSA Wants Hybrids, Electric Vehicles to Have Minimum Sound Requirement

By Trevor Dorchies | January 08, 2013
Hybrid and electric vehicles have many positives, primarily fuel economy. An electric motor generates all the necessary power to get up and go, without the assistance of a noisy gasoline engine. But that lack of noise is one of the drawbacks: the absence of engine noise means pedestrians have a harder time hearing these vehicles coming. If the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has its way, hybrid and electric vehicles will no longer be able to sneak up on you. The NHTSA is proposing a bill that would require all hybrid and electric vehicles to meet a minimum sound requirement so that pedestrians will have an easier time hearing them. "Safety is our highest priority, and this proposal will help keep everyone using our nation's streets and roadways safe, whether they are motorists, bicyclists or pedestrians, and especially the blind and visually impaired," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a statement released by the NHTSA. The proposed standard--officially known as Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 141--will satisfy a mandate put forth by Congress in the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act that requires hybrid and electric vehicles to meet a minimal sound requirement. This minimal sound requirement would allow pedestrians to hear where these vehicles are coming from when they're going at a lower speed.
"Our proposal would allow manufacturers the flexibility to design different sounds for different makes and models while still providing an opportunity for pedestrians, bicyclists and the visually impaired to detect and recognize a vehicle and make a decision about whether it is safe to cross the street," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland in a statement released by the NHTSA. Under this new legislation, hybrid and electric vehicles would be required to be loud enough to be heard over the usual noises that is traffic on a street. It would also force these vehicles to be audibly detectable when traveling under 18 mph. That 18 mph requirement isn't as random as it sounds; the majority of vehicles on the road today make more noise when traveling above that speed. The NHTSA estimates that if these vehicles were louder, 2,800 pedestrians would be killed every year. This proposal is being sent to the Federal Register today and once it's published, the public has 60 days to submit feedback. What do you think? Should hybrid and electric vehicles required to be louder while traveling at lower speeds? Tell us what you think in the comment section below. Source: NHTSA