The European Parliament has passed a new law requiring electric vehicle manufacturers to fit cars with sound-producing units mimicking the noise of a combustion engine to increase safety of pedestrians.
The regulation, previously agreed on by EU ministers, gives electric car makers until 1 July 2019 to install Acoustic Vehicle Alerting System (ACAS) devices into all new cars. The system requirements will have to be specified by the European Commission by 2017.
The lack of noise of electric vehicles is seen as a major problem particularly for visually impaired pedestrians.
The regulation is part of a wider law on transport noise and public health that, on the other hand, orders manufacturers of conventional petrol or diesel powered vehicles to work towards reducing the noise generated by the vehicles. Over the next 12 years, the standards for combustion-engine powered cars will be reduced from current 74 db to 68 db. More powerful vehicles will be able to apply for exceptions allowing them a margin of one to nine decibels with heavy lorries over 12 tonnes being allowed between 79 db and 81 db.
Car manufacturers will also be obliged to fit cars with labels informing customers about noise levels in a similar manner they already have to inform them about fuel consumption or emissions.
Persistent exposure to high levels of traffic noise has been proven to have detrimental effect on human health, disrupting organ functions and increasing the risk of cardiovascular and other diseases. According to the European Environment Agency, traffic is a major contributor to the overall noise exposure of the European population.