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Silent No More: NHTSA Pushes Forward Sound Rules

By January 9, 2013

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It was three years ago that Congress first ordered automakers to protect pedestrians and bicyclists by designing electric-powered vehicles to emit noise. Yesterday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposed rules to carry out that order.

Why the fuss over making such environmentally friendly vehicles a bit noisier? Despite what is likely to come at the annoyance of drivers longing for the soothing silence of their new EV or hybrid, it all comes down to saving lives. In setting forth the rules, the NHTSA stated that designing EVs and hybrid vehicles to make noise when traveling below 18 mph--the speed at which such vehicles would otherwise be as close to silent as you can get--would prevent an incredible 2,800 injuries over the life of every model year of vehicles.

The price tag for adding the necessary speaker systems would up the cost of producing a car or light truck by about $30, according to NHTSA estimates. That equates to an overall cost to the whole industry of about $23 million by 2016, when the rules go into effect.

Before the final version of the rules go into effect, they will be published in the Federal Register to allow for a 60-day public comment period.

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