The soundless engines of electric vehicles might get a lot noisier if a proposed U.S. legislation passes. The intent is to aid public safety by making electric vehicle and hybrid engines audible enough for pedestrians to become aware of the vehicles’ presence.
Under the “quiet-car rule,” the noise level would need to be audible when EVs are moving slower than 18 MPH. It’s possible, claims the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), that the new ruling could save up to 35 lives per model year and prevent around 28,000 injuries.
“To add about a $30 or $35 item to a car for this kind of injury and death prevention, it’s hard to argue against,” Jesse Toprak, an analyst for industry data provider TrueCar.com in Santa Monica, California, said in an interview. “I’m sure all of us have experienced at some time the fear of getting struck by a Prius.”
The cost of implementing this rule would be about $35 per light vehicle, or about $25 million annually, while $1.48 million of that annual cost would cover large vehicles and motorcycles.
Toyota (NYSE: TM) has already said it is reviewing the proposal and has expressed willingness to comply. In fact, the company’s star performer – the Prius – already offers such an option.
The reason for the 18 MPH requirement is that when electric vehicles move faster than that, they typically do make adequate sound to be readily audible. However, non-internal combustion engine cars just don’t make any sound while accelerating or idling, and this is an issue the NHTSA is investigating presently.
Back in 2011, the agency issued a report that stated ‘quiet cars’ are almost twice as likely to be involved in various accidents while slowing, backing up, or stopping compared to internal-combustion engine cars.