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Electric cars and their future 

PAGE 23 electric-car

We hear quite often on the television or in the press that Electric cars are a thing of the future. Is this a reality or is modern technology coming with too high a price tag and too many dangers?

We are already seeing many large car parks and supermarket car parks as well as some garages where they are putting in places for the charging of electric cars. That being said there are Electric and Hybrid cars on the road here but they are very few and far between. Consider for example those people who live in apartments, without a garage space or garage, and there are many of those. If the owners choose in the future to purchase an electric car, where and how would they charge it overnight for example?

We are told that these cars are silent and better for the pollution and our ozone layer as they are not contaminating the atmosphere. However are silent cars a good thing? Apparently not quite as good as manufacturers thought as there is new legislation coming into force in Europe on the 1st July 2019 and later in that year in the USA. This new law is being brought in as noise has always been associated with safety when in a car as other road users are able to hear potential problems, including accidents or incidents, as well as see them. This too is true for pedestrians, as often they can avoid potential injury by taking evasive action when they hear the noise of an impending accident or crash. This legislation will require all of these types of cars be it a hybrid, plug in hybrid, 100% electric, extended range electric and those that form hydrogen fuel cells. The legislation will force manufacturers to ensure that these “silent” cars actually emit a noise of some kind and also that the noise cannot be switched off.

In Europe the exact requirements have yet to be confirmed but it is thought that the the recommendations in the current draft (from 2011) say that a speed of 20kmp was the optimum noise producing speed. In Europe the 2019 date will only refer to new models, with those already being on the road having a timescale to make adaptations until 2021.

This leads us on to ask quite what kind of noise will these cars omit? Something like we see in hi tech sci– fi films, beeps or some other sound. What is certain is that whatever is agreed would have to be unique and verbal commands, such as is sometimes heard on lorries of “Caution vehicle reversing” or similar is unlikely to be acceptable. The European proposals ask for the sound that is to be generated by electric cars to be a continuous one and must provide sufficient information to pedestrians and other vulnerable road users, one assumes the latter being cyclist or such like. It also states that the sound must be easily identifiable from the normal sound of the vehicle and also that it should sound similar to a vehicle of the same category as an internal combustion engine……. what’s the point then?

From the point of view of a blind person (and this comes from the associations who work with the blind across Europe) they state, quite correctly that a vehicle MUST be heard regardless of its location or speed, that noise generation systems must take account of when a vehicle is in quieter conditions. The same system must inform the proximity of the car, even in the case of a temporary stoppage, must mimic sounds generated by “normal” cars performing similar manoeuvres and as we have already pointed out that the system CANNOT be disconnected.