Firms with a fleet of vans which are protected by commercial vehicle insurance have questioned the need for new technology which is designed to make electric vehicles noisier so that pedestrians will be more aware of their presence.
Academics are testing different systems that copy the sound of a vehicle accelerating and changing through the gears for use in electric vehicles. The system will not be expensive and it may be on sale in the few months.
However, fleets are far from convinced that there is a need to make electric vehicles noisier. In fact just one major company who ordered vehicles from Modec (Britain’s biggest commercial EV manufacturer) during the last three years asked for noise-awareness equipment to be fitted.
Because their vans are being used in massive hangers where a lot of people work, Royal Mail asked for vehicles that produced a beeping noise. The Department of Transport did not require any noise-awareness equipment saying it was all down to their driver’s diligence. Another fleet claimed that quiet vehicles were actually an advantage. Marks and Spencer use an electric vehicle for deliveries in London and they prefer the vehicle to be quiet.
The European Commission is now looking at whether there is a case for a minimum noise standard, this would protect cyclists and pedestrians, especially those whose vision is impaired.
Professor Paul Jennings, the man in charge of experiential engineering at Warwick University, stated “We have the technology that allows us to create in real time the interior sounds of a vehicle but impending legislation covering electric vehicles prompted us to study exterior sound. The result is software that we believe provides a combination of sounds that promise to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists in urban and city areas. Significantly, a lot of conventional vehicles are also now very quiet in operation at low speeds, so the system could well have other applications.”