At low speeds, electric vehicles must generate an audible sound in EU countries

Tesla model S, charging in Copenhagen Denmark

A few years ago, I was about to cross a street in the old city center of Copenhagen, Denmark, without even bothering to look if any cars were approaching from behind (note: you should always look both ways because bicycles travel fast and silently along Copenhagen’s flat terrain) since I didn’t hear engines running. From the corner of my eye, however, I could see a dark shadow silently approaching from the morning mist. I stopped and waited on the pavement. A black Tesla slowly sailed by. It was completely silent. I could only hear a faint sound as the electric vehicle’s tires rolled over wet cobble stones.

So, when I learned that the EU has specified a noise level for e-cars, I instantly understood why. It is not a maximum noise the EU has defined, but a minimum level. An electric motor in an electric vehicle doesn’t make enough noise for us to hear it. Tires and wind resistance make plenty of noise, but not at low speeds.

The rules for e-car noise levels originally were drafted at the United Nations, and adopted by the EU. The minimum noise that an otherwise silent vehicle, like an electric car, should emit is 56 decibels when it is rolling along at 20 kmh / 12 mph or slower. It is about the same purr level as in a modern refrigerator when it is cooling beer cans (and maybe other important objects).

The Next Web reports the Acoustic Vehicle Alert System (AVAS) should be featured in all new electric vehicles registered in EU from July 1st 2019.

The AVAS specifications include some interesting details. For instance, car manufacturers may choose if the vehicle is silent or if it makes a sound when it is idling. Here is a fun feature that will probably be both entertaining and irritating: driver selectable sounds. “The vehicle manufacturer may define alternative sounds which can be selected by the driver.”

Harley-Davidson is a legendary motorcycle brand that has carefully finetuned all its bikes to have a similar, recognizable sound. Even Harley-Davidson has launched an electric vehicle, the LiveWire motorcycle. How does it sound? Take a look at the video below and listen.

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