Should my electric car have an acoustic warning sound? 

A reader is concerned that his electric car is too quiet at low speeds; should it emit an artificial noise to warn pedestrians of its presence?...

Pedestrian protection system

I purchased a new Vauxhall Corsa-e electric car earlier this year and have noticed that people do not appear to hear the car when it’s approaching them going slowly.

After a little research, I found your online article stating that all new electric vehicles manufactured from July 2019 onwards are legally required to have an acoustic vehicle alert system (AVAS) fitted to warn other road users of the car’s presence.  

However, my car doesn’t appear to have this, or if it does, maybe it’s switched off.

When I contacted my local Vauxhall dealer, it was adamant no such thing was fitted to electric cars. But then I got in touch with Vauxhall’s customer care department and it confirmed the model is fitted with AVAS – although it couldn’t tell me why my car wasn’t making a noise at low speeds. 

Can you tell me if this system actually is fitted to my vehicle and, if so, who I can get in touch with to get it checked out?

Bill Procter

What Car? says…

You're right that a new law called the Regulation on the Sound Level of Motor Vehicles was introduced on 1 July 2019, making it a legal requirement for all new electric cars to make a sound at speeds below 12mph and when reversing. This was in response to growing concerns that pedestrians and people with hearing disabilities might not notice an electric car approaching them.

Vauxhall Corsa-e 2020 RHD front right tracking

As a result, AVAS is standard on the Corsa-e and can't be manually switched off. We spoke to Vauxhall and were told that the volume of the feature depends on the speed; it's loudest at around 18mph, and it’s not active after the car reaches 30mph. The noise is external, not internal, so the system on your car could be working although you’re not able to hear it from inside the car.  

That said, if you think your car isn’t making a noise, we’d recommend getting it checked over at a Vauxhall dealership. It might be worth referring the service department to this article, and to Vauxhall's customer service department, when you book the car in so it can't be in any doubt about the car having the system. 

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Electric cars are now entering the mainstream, and their rise is only going to accelerate as rules are introduced to limit the kind of vehicles allowed into major cities.

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If you're looking for a small electric car to primarily use in the city, the Mii Electric should definitely be on your shortlist. It might not have the battery capacity – and therefore range – of some alternatives, but that means its price is lower, and the 111 miles that it managed in our Real Range test is still enough for many people's needs.

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