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Feds Want to Turn Up the Volume on Battery Cars

Hybrids and EVs have much higher rate of pedestrian collisions.

by on Jan.08, 2013

Battery cars like the Tesla Model S will soon have to emit noise to warn pedestrians and bicyclists.

Hit the Start button in the new Ford Focus Electric and you might think nothing has happened – not unless you notice the flash of lights and gauges on the instrument panel.  For many buyers, one of the big benefits is the way battery-based vehicles can operate almost silently.

But there are also a number of critics, notably including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, who believe there’s a downside to electric propulsion, especially when operating in a crowded urban environment where pedestrians may not here the vehicle coming.

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Now, NHTSA is calling on carmakers to amp up the noise level.  The federal safety agency has proposed a new rule that would require such vehicles operating at speeds under 18 miles per hour make enough noise to be heard by pedestrians, especially those with impaired vision, over the normal din of a city street.