Make some noise for electric cars!

Electric and hybrid cars have been quietly rising in popularity over the past few years – and that’s the problem. They’re too quiet.

According to campaigners, the smooth and almost silent nature of the vehicles is a potential hazard for pedestrians and therefore a potential for price increase on car insurance.

New registrations for such cars in the UK have risen from 3,500 in 2013 to almost 97,000 by the end of April 2017, while the number of electric vehicles sold in the UK has risen from around 500 per month in the first half of 2014 to more than 3,000 per month in the past year.

But the lack of an internal combustion engine (ICE) means the cars glide almost noiselessly along tarmac, especially when travelling at lower speeds or during manoeuvres such as reversing.

And recent research has shown that electric or hybrid cars are 40% more likely to hit a pedestrian than conventional vehicles due to the lack of sound.

In fact, a study commissioned by the charity Guide Dogs also found a 54% increase in accidents where pedestrians were injured by quiet vehicles from 2012 to 2013.

Stop, look and listen?

That’s the road safety mantra we all know. But blind and partially sighted people rely on sound to warn them of a car’s proximity, so these noiseless vehicles are a real worry, especially as they become more popular.

As a charity committed to helping them gain confidence when going about their everyday lives, the report by Guide Dogs also expressed concerns that increasing numbers of electric vehicles could have the opposite effect.

James White, campaigns manager for Guide Dogs, says: "We strive to help people who are blind and partially sighted get out and about alone and the research findings clearly inhibit this effort. This isn't just about physical injury – a near miss with a quiet vehicle can be enough to severely hamper a blind or partially sighted person’s confidence.

"As the numbers of these vehicles on our roads increase, this report shows the need for urgent action to be taken to consider their safety implications."

What is being done?

Thankfully, the law is changing. New models of electric and hybrid vehicles will have to make a noise by 2019, while all new electric and hybrid cars must be audible by 2021.

Some manufacturers are already taking steps to make their cars more audible, with the Nissan Leaf and BMW i8 both equipped with vehicle sounds for pedestrians (VSP).

Guide Dogs believes the sounds should be automatic at speeds of under 20mph, and has also campaigned for electric vehicles to generate a noise that is “concurrent with existing ICE vehicles”. In other words, they should mimic a normal car.

What do you think? We teamed up with some ‘noise experts’ (AKA kids) to get their input. See more here.

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