Electric Vehicle Death Machines

Modern Energy Roundup - January 8, 2013

Written by Brian Hicks
Posted January 8, 2013

One of the great things about electric vehicles is that they're so quiet.

Unless of course, you have a visual impairment and can't hear them coming while crossing the street.

Not surprisingly, the anti-EV brigade often uses this issue to attack electric vehicles. One blogger actually referred to electric cars as “death machines” because of the sound issue. To be honest, I had no idea this 22-year oil industry veteran was so concerned about the safety of visually impaired pedestrians. Not once had he discussed his advocacy for the blind in his seven-year-old blog about oil investing and the evils of those “damn treehuggers in Washington.”

Sarcasm aside, this is actually a very real issue, particularly because growth rates for electric vehicles will continue to soar for years to come. For those who think this is a problem now, wait until we have a few million of these things on the road.

So yes, addressing this issue early on is an absolute necessity. And it's why the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has proposed minimum sound standards for hybrid and electric vehicles.

According to the proposal, automakers would have to provide a sound that is detectable under a wide range of street noises and other ambient background sounds when the vehicle is traveling under 18 miles per hour. Apparently, at 18 miles per hour and above, vehicles make sufficient noise to allow pedestrians and bicyclists to detect them without an artificially-created sound. Automakers would be able to choose from a significant range of sounds. Personally, I'd love to hear some kind of futuristic spaceship noise maybe the sound of a rushing herd of elephants.

The NHTSA estimates that if the proposal is implemented, there would be 2,800 fewer pedestrian and cyclist injuries over the life of each model year of hybrid cars, trucks and vans and low speed vehicles, as compared to vehicles without sound.