Policy - electric vehicles

Electric vehicles- too quiet for our own good?

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Electric and hybrid vehicles are being encouraged by all European governments as part of greenhouse gas reduction policies. The electric vehicle charging network is growing and there are now 9000 public charging stations nationwide.

One of the key safety issues for electric cars is their lack of sound at low speed and the risk this causes for vulnerable road users. US research estimates that electric cars are twice as likely to be involved in a pedestrian collision as regular cars. The problem of vulnerable roads users not being aware of approaching vehicles is real and one that can only increase.

Legislative position

The European Parliament adopted an amendment on February 6 2013 for compulsory acoustic vehicle alerting systems (AVAS) in quiet vehicles to protect vulnerable road users. The UK Government had originally supported a voluntary approach and on April 14 Transport Minister, Norman Baker reported that they were considering whether to revise their negotiating approach. Ultimately legislation on car design standards must be agreed at a European level.

IAM recommendations

  • The IAM supports the concept of a standard sound which can be readily understood by pedestrians of all ages and abilities
  • The IAM supports the mandatory fitment of acoustic vehicle alerting systems to electric cars for the safety of vulnerable road users
  • The UK Government should work with European partners to set standards and requirements before the number of electric and hybrid vehicles increases
  • For full electric cars more research is needed to establish the need for acoustic warnings at higher speeds
  • Joint research should start now into identifying the best combination of sound and decibel level for optimum pedestrian safety and minimum sound pollution

poll background

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