posted 6 years ago

Hybrid Cars: Silent But Flawed?

Are Hybrid And Electric Cars Too Quiet?

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.

I had a 'Brush' with a Prius in a Morrisons car park. It was totally silent going about 5mph

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.

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?

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.

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!

fair enough cyclists dont make a noise but they also dont weigh over a ton and travel at high speeds

Agreed too quiet! I agree that so is a cyclist but they dont weigh several ton. I was crossing a car park with my two kids and suddenly a car reversed. I was listening and looking for cars moving or making noise. But as the movement was fast and unexpected I needed the engine sound to warn me 1, that someone was in their car and may move 2, listen to the engine revs to hear the car was moving. Engine noise is important. I don't agree that no noise is relaxing for a driver or passengers. Any parent knows that the last resort is a drive in the car to get the baby settled ;-) We like noise.

Yes, hybrid and electric cars are silent but then so are cyclists! Quite frankly I'd rather be approached by a fully licenced and insured car than by an untrained and uninsured cyclist who thinks s/he owns the road!

They are too quiet, if anyone has been to Zermat they have electric vehicles driving around in the town and you do not hear them until they are right on you!

"Loud pipes save lives" has never been truer, cars should make noise, its not natural for you to hear a car that barely makes a sound, louder cars are much safer than quiet ones. Yes people may becoming more environmentally friendly, but they should also try be considerate of pedestrians, that and you can still get extremely economical diesel engines that make enough sound to be heard.