Electric Car Noise Is Becoming A Problem!

It’s not that EVs or Hybrids running on batteries are too noisy, but rather they don’t make enough noise.

People just stand around these cars when their drivers are trying to get going and often don’t realize that they’re in the way. Pedestrians can’t hear them coming.

Some safety specialists think these cars should be equipped with external speakers that would broadcast enough sound to make them audibly noticeable.

Put yourself in the driver’s seat of an EV or hybrid running on batteries, with an external sound system capable of selecting and producing nearly any sounds.

What sounds would be eminating from your electric car that would get the attention of pedestrians and cause them to move?


Last year, I recall some controversy regarding whether EVs pose a danger to blind pedestrians. It surely seems that these cars should be required to have some noise emanating from them in order to prevent the blind from walking into their path. Specifically what type of noise, I will let others determine, but these vehilces do need to have some sort of noise to alert the blind.

I may be wrong, but I seem to recall that at least one of my cars had a gadget on it to take care of that kind of problem. I think it was called a horn or something like that.


If a blind person suddenly walks in front of an EV because he/she did not hear the approach of a car, a horn is not going to help avoid hitting that disabled person.
In case you think that this scenario is not likely, I can assure you that in certain urban areas it is very possible for this to happen. Even at low speeds, it would likely not be possible to avoid hitting someone under these circumstances.

“People just stand around these cars when their drivers are trying to get going and often don’t realize that they’re in the way. Pedestrians can’t hear them coming.”

They do?? What are you basing this statement on??

Take a look at this article from The L.A. Times:

And this:

And, also this:

Yes, They Do. I Base This On My Experience Leaving Outdoor Sporting Events Every Week-End In The Summer. When I Start My Car, Standing People Turn, Look, And Move.

Some electric powered vehicles are so quiet that people don’t respond to their starting and movement and sometimes step into the path of these vehicles.

As a matter of fact this same situation is obvious at golf courses. One course I frequent has electric carts and another gasoline powered carts. Approaching pedestrians in a parking lot from behind usually gets a response while driving the gas machines, not so with electric.


A good running non-hybrid/electric vehiclel doesn’t make enough noise to get anybodys attntion. Most noise from automobiles is generated by the tires.

When someone is biking, running or walking they use noise cues to keep up with traffic behind them. Losing the noise cues makes it a bit less safe. This is more the case in residential neighborhoods rather than main thoroughfares.

This thread brings to mind a somewhat comparable situation, back in the early days of motoring.
Back then, cars normally made a huge amount of noise, and they also spewed noxious clouds of exhaust and crankcase blow-by. In other words, it was really easy to know when a “motorcar” was approaching, based on the noise and the odor.

When Rolls-Royce introduced their Silver Ghost model, there were several incidents on the factory grounds involving people being hit by RR Silver Ghosts, simply because they were–by the standards of the day–extremely quiet. They also spewed much less noxious smoke, due to a higher standard of manufacturing on the part of RR.

The result of these car/pedestrian incidents was that RR erected signs at several places on the factory grounds, reading, “Look out for silent cars!”.

Of course, warning signs would not work for visually-impaired pedestrians, but it helps to prove that old adage that, “There is nothing new under the sun”, or at least that the past is merely a prelude to the present.

If you listen closely enough you can hear the noise of a hybrid. If you are on a busy street where it is too loud to hear them, I have to ask why you are walking in that busy street in the first place and not using the sidewalk.

Here is what you do…Install one of those ghetto shaker sound systems. Mount the main speakers under the hood. Find a CD soundtrack of a P-51 Mustang WW-2 fighter cranking up from a cold start, or even better, a Pratt & Whitney 4300 that uses an air starter to get it turning…I guarantee you a clear path in all directions. Once out on the road, just play a closed loop of the same Mustang singing its 400mph song…

None. There are lots of cars that are really quite from the outside and “emit” only road noise. Little difference in the problem with electrics and that of bicycles except the force of the impact. We’ll deal with it as more come on line and maybe, actually look both ways. Head phone wearing pedestrians deal with it.

Flight of the Valkyries?

British Car Maker Lotus Has Been Selling A Noise Emitting Device Which Mimicks A “Gas Powered Combustion Engine” To Deal With This Quiet Hybrid Problem.
The device is named “Safe And Sound” and is marketed to make hybrid cars safer for blind pedestrians, children, and cyclists.

Tokyo based Data System sells a product for about $140 that emits 16 different external sounds including a “cat?s meow”, a ?boing,? and a human voice saying, ?Excuse me.?

Nissan is considering adding a high pitched “science fiction sound” for its new EV “Leaf” car.

VW is looking at adding an engine sound to their new “E-Up!” concept car.

I have read that some are looking at adding a vibration factor to the noise that would help the hearing impaired as well.

My original question wasn’t to debate the merits of this technology and I offered no opinion. I was asking for ideas as to which sounds would appeal to you more than others. It was meant to be a fun discussion.

Thanks for all the thoughtful responses so far.

I like the actual sound suggestions given by Caddyman. I’d go with a P-51 starting up or how about a radial engine coughing to life?

What other sounds would work to alert people, sounds that couldn’t be ignored?



Stand on a street corner or shopping center parking lot and listen. With few exceptions you can not hear the engine of any car or truck until it is inches away (too late to jump), mostly you hear the tires. And horns.

I don’t think the answer to this problem is to make new cars unnecessarily noisy. I think less noise pollution is a good thing. Instead, we need to make it easier for the visually impaired to get around safely. Adjust training of seeing-eye dogs for the new technology. Install railings in neighborhoods near schools for the blind or in neighborhoods where blind people live.

If there are normal pedestrians who don’t know how to move out of the way of a moving car, I call that God thinning the heard.

What sound ? low dulsive tones are heard by people the longest I believe. Some people have damage to their internal ear hairs from loud music,machinery,etc… but, they usually keep their lower tone abilities a while longer I believe. A friend of mine lost high pitch hearing in Vietnam, but he can still hear a helicopter 15 minutes before it arrives. He did it yesterday.

You needn’t make noise accept when you are around other objects. We walk by store doors that sense our presence with infrared waves. Just put some of those around the car. What sound ?
How about the slightly amplified sound of the ABS brakes pulsing like a tame version of driving over those little reflector bumps when you move off the freeway in a freeway interchange area… “Thump,thump,thump,thump,thump…” That could wake them up without being a harsh kind of sound.
Oh, HOW ABOUT A HELICOPTER’s blade thud,thud,thud… ?

I know around here half the people I see crossing the road don’t even bother to look in any direction but in front of them. Take those kinda people and put them on the streets when drivers aren’t paying attention because they’re too busy texting or talking on the phone and you have some major problems

This “problem” is in the catagory of a “filler” news item.