Vroom Vroom: Silent electric cars need noises

Thu Dec 23, 2010 8:46am EST
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By Stuart McDill

COVENTRY (Reuters) - Should an electric car go vroom vroom like its internal combustion ancestors, make a noise like a space ship in Star Wars or emit the tranquil sounds of birdsong?

Researchers in England considering noises to alert pedestrians and cyclists to the presence of oncoming electric cars say legislation to force silent electric vehicles (EVs) to make a warning noise is inevitable.

"It's definitely coming," Warwick University Professor Paul Jennings told Reuters. "It's being prompted by the fact that there are now real statistics."

Figures compiled by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show pedestrians and cyclists are twice as likely to be hit by a hybrid electric vehicle running silently at low speed than by a car with a normal engine.

The research team at Warwick University's Manufacturing Group (WMG) who have spent years helping the car industry make vehicles quieter now find their work in reverse gear.

"We want...to investigate sounds that are going to be safe, have minimal effect on the environment and are going to give some creativity to the manufacturers," Jennings said.

The team want to know what kind of warning noise is the most effective and have adapted an electric delivery truck on campus to make different noises on different days. They then canvass opinion from students.

"If you ask the general public what an electric vehicle should sound like you are more likely to get an answer that relates back to science fiction movies -- we've had all sorts of suggestions from the Jetsons to Star Wars, Star Trek," research team member Seb Giudice said.   Continued...

<p>A Tesla Roadster is electrically charged at Tesla Motors Inc in San Carlos, California July 22, 2009. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith</p>