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Is Silence Truly Golden For An Electric Car?

The need to introduce sounds into silence


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The sound of internal combustion engines has become an integral part of cities around the world. Some people feel that it is excessively loud, and indeed, the noise of an engine revving next to you can be unbearable. Hence, the advent of electric and hybrid automobiles arrived with praise thanks to the promise of silent running. However, there can indeed be too much of a good thing. Electric or hybrid vehicles are reported as being 40% more likely to be involved in an accident which causes injury to a pedestrian.


Unfortunately, this hazard is ironically due to their silence. Electrically powered vehicles are extremely quiet, which makes it hard for pedestrians to hear and anticipate their arrival. This problem is made worse if the pedestrian is visually impaired or blind and can’t see the car. Hence, legislation was put in place in 2019 to mandate that such vehicles produce some form of sound at low speeds. Individual manufacturers are permitted to use whatever sound they deem suitable, but it should be similar to yet not louder than a traditional engine. Additionally, the sound produced should also correlate with the vehicle’s speed for better judgement.


Since the legislation, different car manufacturers have provided unique interpretations such as Nissan’s concept car that “sings” and Jaguar’s “racecar howl”. BMW is also collaborating with movie composer Hans Zimmer to produce sounds for its future car.