As anyone knows who has driven a hybrid or electric vehicle, one of the biggest, most obvious differences compared to a conventional automobile is the lack of engine noise. In fact, it's one of the things many people like, in addition to the obvious cost-savings and environmental wins.
But Congress says silence is not so golden when it comes to the new generation automobile. On Dec. 16, 2010, the House joined the Senate in forcing auto safety regulators to impose minimum sound levels for hybrid and electric vehicles so they can no longer creep silently along America's highways and byways.
If it all sounds a bit like its running counter to the overriding goal of reducing our impact on the environment, take heart in knowing that the government has a very good reason behind the legislation, which is expected to be signed into law by President Obama. It seems blind pedestrians, children, iPod-loving joggers and others are simply being put at too much risk without some sort of warning--the sound of oncoming traffic--to alert them of the danger.