Last year an EU directive was approved to ensure that all new electric vehicles are fitted with sound emitters, due to come into force in July 2019. This was due to safety concerns over how quiet they can be when travelling at low speeds (under 12mph); dubbed the “silent menace” by safety campaigners, all new electric and hybrid vehicles must emit a noise when travelling at low speed or reversing to ensure that cyclists and pedestrians are aware of their presence. Older models will need to be retrofitted with sound emitters.
It’s been 6 months since the directive was approved, with another 6 months to go until the directive becomes law, but we are already seeing models on the road with sound emitters on board. These include the new Renault Kangoo ZE 33 electric van (updated 2018 version) with it’s Z.E Voice function and the Nissan Leaf, which emits two different sounds at low speeds for reversing and driving forwards. Nissan have been a pioneer in this particular area for safety, debuting the ‘Canto’ function in 2017 at the Tokyo Motor Show, to great amusement across the crowd; ‘Canto’ means “I sing” in Italian and the noise has been liked to a demonic string quartet tuning their instruments. Check it out below!
There is a sizeable list of electric cars and vans due to debut in 2019, as well as upgraded versions of existing models, such as the Mini EV, the Honda Urban EV and a new van (as yet unnamed) from Coventry-based manufacturer LEVC (formerly the London Taxi Company). LEVC are the ones behind the new plug in London Taxi and opened the first new car factory in the UK last year for over a decade. The addition of sound emitting technology will no doubt make all new electric vehicles safer for pedestrians and cyclists, especially in suburban areas where speed is likely to be less. However, this doesn’t tackle the issue of the vehicles already on the road (estimated at 45,000 as a minimum) with no sound emitter in place.
It has been estimated that retrofitting existing electric models with sound emitting technology will take place over the next few years. Because the object is to have a warning noise that is effective yet not environmentally disturbing, manufacturers will need to ensure they get this right before retrofitting to any existing models. They may also need to look at how best to install such a device that cannot then be turned off by the user for models where it is not built in from the start.