Making noises

* EVs pose silent threat * Could cause many injuries * Audio solutions sought...

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What Car? Staff
07 December 2010

Making noises

The question is what type of noise?. Laurens van den Acker, Renaults design director, added: Im constantly being pulled into meetings, played noises and asked which one is a Renault sound?.

Philippe Barriac, of Peugeot-Citrons EV programmes and strategy department, agrees. I think the EU will follow the US and Japan and insist on some form of noise, but I do not know when perhaps by 2015, he said.

The only dissenting voice came from Frank Weber, the head of business and product planning for Vauxhall-Opel. It is not such a big issue, he said. There is nothing more luxurious than the absence of noise, but there are technical solutions if we have to respect it.

Debate rages over what type of noise EVs should emit. In Japan, there is a commercially available system that mimics a cats miaow or says excuse me if the car encounters someone in its path, and there are almost as many ideas on what is the right sort of sound as there are car manufacturers.

Sounds familiar
Automotive sound specialist Harman which has premium hi-fi brands Mark Levinson and Harman/Kardon in its extensive portfolio has been working with Lotus on a system that replicates the noise of a petrol-engined car. Harman claims this is the most appropriate form of warning to blind people.

The system is production-ready, too weve tried it in a Toyota Prius and it can reproduce the sounds of a four-cylinder engine, a V6, a V8 or a V12. Theres even the option of a couple of spacecraft-type noises.

Depending on whose forecasts you believe, by 2020 EVs could account for between 5% and 10% of all sales, so the noise issue is one that needs to be tackled sooner rather than later. Hugh Huddy, the Royal National Institute for the Blinds transport campaigner, says: Were getting a steady stream of people on forums saying they are really worried about this.

The RNIB isnt against greener cars, but we are concerned about the increasing number of quiet hybrid and electric cars on UK roads.

People with little or no sight rely on sound to safely navigate our streets, but how do you avoid stepping out in front of a car if you cant see or hear it approaching?