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Automakers say ‘quiet car’ rule makes electric vehicles too loud

Tesla Model S. Photo by Tesla.The federal government wants electric vehicles and other electrified cars such as hybrids to make noise to alert pedestrians, bicyclists and the blind to their presence to prevent collisions. But automakers say that the “quiet car” rule would make these vehicles too loud.

A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposal sets minimum sound levels for what some have called “silent killer” cars. But two trade groups that represent most major automakers say that the proposed rule would require sounds “that are too loud and too complicated,” and would make the vehicles louder than some sports cars.

In a joint statement to NHTSA, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers contend that if the rule is “implemented as proposed, it would result in alert sounds that are louder than necessary, create driver and occupant annoyance and cost more than necessary.” They added that even some gasoline-powered sports cars would not be able to pass the tests.

The quiet-car rule is scheduled to begin in September 2014. Automakers contend that this timetable “is not possible” and have asked NHTSA to revise the rule before issuing a final regulation. If NHTSA can’t change the rule, automakers want to delay the phase-in until 2018.
Automakers point out that no vehicles currently meet the requirements and that they are considering reprogramming existing control modules to create alerts to make the required sounds. The federal rule stipulates that the characteristics of the sounds must meet certain minimum requirements but allows automakers to choose a range of sounds. The rule also requires vehicles of the same make and model to emit the same sound or set of sounds.

NHTSA estimates that the quiet-car rule will cost the auto industry about $23 million the first year and expects the additional per-vehicle cost to be $35. Automakers countered that the costs of components could be five times as high as NHTSA estimates. Automakers such as Audi have already devoted considerable R&D to create sounds for their EVs, and they argue that the new systems will take time to develop and certify.


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