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Hybrid Cars: Silent But Flawed?

Hybrid Cars: Silent But Flawed?

Are Hybrid And Electric Cars Too Quiet?
Hybrid Cars: Silent But Flawed?
Hybrid and fully electric cars are quieter than their traditional siblings - but is this a significant strength or a worrying weakness? One one hand, near-silent cars are relaxing to drive which is nice for motorists. They also make life more peaceful for those who live or work close to busy roads. But what about pedestrians and cyclists? These individuals listen for traffic as much as look for it. They therefore partially rely on thumping pistons and booming exhausts to stay safe. But electric cars - and hybrids travelling at low speeds – do not make traditional car noises so they sneak-up on road users. As their numbers rise this could increase the frequency of accidents which would be bad for the individuals concerned, their families, and the N.H.S. Now, it is fair to suggest that people could learn to rely more on their eyesight. Perhaps this is true. But what about blind pedestrians who depend almost entirely on their hearing to sense traffic? And what about other motorists? Drivers perceive the presence of traffic - even when it is hidden by blind spots/fog - via the rumble of exhausts and the pounding of internal combustion.

What Can Be Done To Make Electric And Hybrid Cars Noisier?

Manufacturers are now responding to these concerns by creating systems that make fully electric and hybrid cars noisier at low speeds. These are available in the United States of America and Japan. I suspect they will soon find their way to the United Kingdom too. The principle is to use weather resistant external speakers to play warning sounds to pedestrians and cyclists. Some constantly simulate the idling and acceleration of internal combustion vehicles, others simply chirp intermittently. However, the systems could produce any noise the manufacturers choose. Furthermore, some only propel sound waves in the direction the vehicles are travelling. Pedestrians standing behind cars that are moving forwards are therefore spared the full force of the noise - but those in their path are alerted more vigorously. And quite right too. Fully electric and hybrid cars are likely to become increasingly popular over the next few years. They have numerous advantages, after all, such as low emissions. But surely a generation of cars that is virtually silent would be bad for road safety. Surely that would be a significant weakness even if they make busy roads quieter for residents. So, roll out those speakers.
Stephen Turvil
By Stephen Turvil
Mon, 18 Feb 2013
Your CommentsBubble
Avatar 23/02/2013 10:35:11
Jon Douglas Commented:
I had a 'Brush' with a Prius in a Morrisons car park. It was totally silent going about 5mph
Avatar 19/02/2013 22:41:28
Jeremy Rose Commented:
Very valid concerns. Forget pedestrians who are plugged in to ipods etc. The majority of people (who are not so plugged in), like me, do not like being crept up on by vehicles taht cannot be heard - we do not have eyes in the backs of our heads. This issue has concerned me for some time and hybrid cars should have an artificial engine noise built in for safety's sake. This is particularly important in areas where there are no footpaths or on narrow streets in town centres.
Avatar 19/02/2013 10:02:00
Kathir Jega Pillai Commented:
I do not agree making hybrid cars noiseier. The pedestrians and cyclist plug their ears with music and do not look around when they use road anyway.How can they hear?
Avatar 18/02/2013 18:47:30
James Daverall Commented:
I do not agree with the adding of noise to Electric cars. Nobody has mentioned the crunch of tyres on the road surface which is what generates a large percentage of the noise people are refering to and also RR at low speeds is almost silent as well as some other up market cars. People should take responsibility for their own safety and look where they are going, not expect the government to legislate yet again to do what the individual should be doing.
Avatar 18/02/2013 17:19:46
Sarah Connell Commented:
I agree that these engines need to make more noise, as outise school at dropping off and picking up time there are several of the well know Hybrid 4x4, they need a sign on the back (like on the old ice cream vans) saying mind that child! As no one can hear them when they arrive to park or pull off!
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