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by Tim Beissmann

Transport authorities in the US have taken the first steps in establishing regulations for minimum noise levels created by hybrid and electric vehicles.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has a mandate to establish noise standards, which are intended to enhance road safety for pedestrians, cyclists, and especially vision-impaired road users.

The regulations will force all near-silent hybrid and electric vehicles to make a common set of operating sounds, at low speeds at least.

The NHTSA must finalise the new rules by January 2014, after which time the government will have three years to implement them.

“Even as we make giant leaps forward with hybrid and electric vehicles, we must remain laser-focused on safety,” NHTSA administrator David Strickland said in a statement.

“With more and more quiet vehicles on the road, we have to consider their effect on pedestrians.”

The NHTSA plans to investigate a range of different noises, including chirps, hums and beeps; sounds similar to an internal combustion engine; and a combination of these.

The Nissan Leaf emits noises at low speeds and beeps like a truck when it reverses. The Chevrolet Volt also has an audible warning system, although drivers have to enable the system for it to operate.

Ford is also working on a driving noise for its Focus Electric, and last month opened the door for members of the public to give their feedback on four potential sounds.

Following the initial stages of scoping, research and public comment, the NHTSA will begin writing the laws by July 4, 2012.

What sounds do you think hybrid and electric vehicles should make? Should they have an electric drone and beep like a truck, or should they sound more like normal cars? Feel free to make all the noise you like in the comments section below.




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