In a world with increasingly stringent emission and noise standards, vehicle OEMs are continuously tasked with making their automobiles and motorcycles quieter.
Today, we bring you such news, but it’s probably not the news that you think. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has just set a standard that will see electric automobiles getting louder, instead of quieter, in the name of vehicle safety.
But oddly enough, the new rule does not apply to electric motorcycles…for now.
The issue at stake is that the human ear has a hard time distinguishing noises that are within 3 dB of each other. Thus, when an electric vehicle goes past you at a relatively low speed, it is hard to hear it over the background noise. For visually impaired individuals, the challenge is even more potent.
As such, over 2,400 individuals were injured last year by an electric vehicle they did not hear. For anyone who has ridden or driven an electric vehicle in a busy parking lot should be well aware of how stealthy thees machines are to the surrounding pedestrians, so the NHTSA is wisely taking action.
Responding to Congress’ mandate in the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act, NHTSA’s new standard will see automobile manufacturers having to add a speaker to their cars, which will play a sound when the vehicle is accelerating up to 19 mph, or when it is traveling in reverse.
For now, the standard does not apply to motorcycles (it does into effect September 1, 2019), with NHTSA simply stating that, “we believe that we do not have enough information at this time to apply the minimum acoustic requirements of this final rule to the vehicles (motorcycles).”
Electric motorcycles are getting a pass most likely because of the relatively few machines that are on the road right now. But as that number increases, we can surely expect two-wheeled EVs to get a similar treatment.
Quite frankly, there is perhaps a greater need for this regulation in the two-wheeled space than the four-wheeled realm, with motorcycles already being harder for pedestrians to see.
This is because motorcycles have a much smaller cross section than an automobile, and our speed and maneuverability make us less predictable as well.
So, for those of you who snidely wished for a proper exhaust note from an electric motorcycle, your wish might actually come true. Though, we imagine that electric motorcycles OEMs like Zero, Victory, Energica, Alta et al will come up with something more Jetsons-like.
Of course, we’re sure crafty EV owners will devise their own warning tones.