From today (July 1), manufacturers selling electric or hybrid cars inside the EU must ensure they emit a sound to improve safety for pedestrians.
Sound generators will produce a specified level of noise when they are reversing or running below 12mph. The sound generated will be similar to that made by a conventional engine. However, it can be deactivated by the driver if necessary.
EU lawmakers say the new compulsory regulation will allow those who are visually impaired to hear vehicles more easily.
Research has shown that pedestrians are 40% more likely to be hit by a hybrid or electric car than by one with a petrol or diesel engine in the UK.
Research has also shown that some electric and hybrid vehicles can’t be heard until one second before impact with a pedestrian.
Older vehicles are also expected to be retrofitted with the technology.
Michael Ellis, Roads Minister, said: ‘The government wants the benefits of green transport to be felt by everyone, and understands the concerns of the visually impaired about the possible hazards posed by quiet electric vehicles.
‘This new requirement will give pedestrians added confidence when crossing the road.’
The legislation was welcomed by Hugh Huddy, Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) Policy Manager, who said: ‘The very low sound levels on electric and hybrid vehicles make them a potential danger to blind and partially sighted pedestrians like me, because we need the sound of a vehicle to know it is there.
‘After years of campaigning on this issue, we welcome the new regulations coming into force, which will ensure that all new electric vehicles have audible warning sounds.
‘However, it will take time for the new Audible Vehicle Alert System, or AVAS, to apply to electric cars everywhere and we remain concerned that existing electric cars on the roads won’t be fitted with this essential safety feature for years – creating a discrepancy in safety standards on Britain’s roads until 2021.’