No Mandatory Noises for Electric Motorcycles, Yet…

11/28/2016 @ 11:22 am, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS


In a world with increasingly stringent emission and noise standards, vehicle OEMs are continuously tasked with making their automobiles and motorcycles quieter.

Such regulations have brought us some ridiculous creations in the motorcycle realm, especially for the Japanese and European market, but changes are afoot here in the United States as well.

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.

Source: NHTSA

  • josh

    I’ll just leave this here.

  • MacaveliMC

    Depending on the noise these vehicles will be making, this could end up being super annoying….much like a back up beeper on a big truck, but on a car moving slowly through a parking lot for much longer than a truck is backing up. I suppose we shall see.

  • SuperTard72

    Why not teach people to look before stepping onto a roadway? It would certainly sound better than a noisy electric vehicle… see what I did there?

  • ‘Mike Smith

    I can’t explain it but I have both a rather loud R1 and a Zero SR, and I get cut off at least twice as often on the R1, maybe even more. I ride them both in the same manner, which is mostly defensively. You’d think it would be the other way around but that hasn’t been my experience.

  • n/a

    Why not kill off E-vehicles? Problem instantly solved.


    Imagine a fleet of these things sneaking up on you:

  • SuperTard72

    With a metal stake through the battery pack? I like sparks😁

  • irksome

    How about letting me assign different tones or songs like the alarm on my phone.
    I’m thinking Wu Tang for some days, Cream’s I’m So Glad for others.
    Hell, maybe farting noises or tiny bubbles popping. The possibilities are endless.

  • Paul M. Fenn

    Do you have that flag on your R1. Might explain it.

  • Campisi

    They could use an internal microphone and a mounted speaker to amplify the sound of the motor at low speeds, so that you could hear the motor until you can hear the motor.

  • randybsinger

    They showed the solution on Southpark!


  • Eric

    I wonder if the chain noise will be enough; some electric bikes I’ve heard on videos seem to make significant amounts of sound, but perhaps only at higher speeds… The Harley Livewire’s gear whirr doesn’t sound like a dumb idea after all. I actually liked that the HD engineering team were thinking about this right from the beginning, and now they have another good reason for it.

  • Craigo142

    Psh…this was solved four years ago…by a pizza company!

  • Ian John

    Two words, Tie Fighter.
    I’ll give up ICE when they sound like a LOUD Tie Fighter.
    If pedestrians don’t hear that coming, check them for a pulse.

  • Jose Angel Garcia Guijarro

    Last year in when I was visiting my fiancee’s family in Chengdu I almost got run over several times by electric motorbikes, which actually are more silent than bicicles and their drivers just don’t turn the lights on to save battery.

    Funny thing in China they are sold at supermarkets so they are everywhere, it is really horrible

  • n/a

    If you’re volunteering to do it, then sure!

    Perhaps some rubber shoes/gloves…lol

  • well … i don’t know … i will just leave this here:

  • David


    Also, bonus points for a horn mode that sounds like lasers.

  • fzrider

    I used baseball cards attached to my bicycle frame with clothes pins as a kid. The whack, whack noise also indicated my speed. Modern electric motorcycles of course would need improved attachment devices and cards that won’t wear out so fast.

  • Spurdog1

    The lack of noise may be a problem on the road where people are more interested in their facebook page than getting mowed down but it makes perfect sense for track days.

  • ‘Mike Smith

    Your mom gave me a whole pack of stickers…and the clap.

  • Paul M. Fenn

    To most of us humans, that flag is associated with its bearer being in favour of racism, slavery, segregation and white supremacy.

    It seems you like to court controversy, and have successfully done so.

    As for my mother, she’d happily give you a pack of reasons why you should rise above ignorance (whether willful or otherwise)… and a slap.