At low speeds, electric and hybrid vehicles make virtually no noise thanks to quiet motors. But that won’t be the case any longer.
The federal government is amending the Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations to mandate minimum levels of noise from hybrid and electric vehicles.
As of now, the government pointed out, it is hard to detect the presence of these vehicles. This creates potentially dangerous scenarios for pedestrians, cyclists and those with disabilities.
Under the new requirements, all hybrid and electric vehicles are now required to have sound emitters that would produce noise at low speeds. Automakers can choose the type of sound the vehicle makes but the volume and pitch must allow a road user to hear if a vehicle is speeding up or slowing down.
Some automakers have voluntarily added sound emitters to hybrids and EVs already. The new requirement, which came into effect towards the end of last year, makes the sound emitters mandatory equipment on all new light-duty passenger vehicles sold in Canada.
The noise requirements align with United States and international standards. U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requires EVs and hybrids to produce sounds ranging from 43 to 64 decibels when they are moving at less than 30 km/h.
At higher speeds, however, there may be little difference or none at all between the sounds of a traditional vehicle and an electric or hybrid. An assistant professor of epidemiology at Brown University in Rhode Island recently observed that sounds would be different with EVs on roads — but not necessarily quieter.
“At high speeds, there may not be much difference between gas-powered cars and EVs or hybrids,” Erica D. Walker noted. “That’s because other factors like tire and wind noise become louder as cars move faster.”