New electric vehicles will have to feature a noise-emitting device, in a move to improve pedestrian safety.
Under EU legislation, which comes into effect today (1 July), vehicle manufacturers must install the system – which sounds like a traditional engine – in new electric and hybrid vehicles.
The noise must sound when a car is reversing or travelling below 12mph (19km/h) – although it can be temporarily deactivated by the driver if deemed necessary.
The move is designed to help pedestrians – particularly those with a visual impairment – to avoid being involved in a collision with an electric vehicle.
Michael Ellis, road safety minister, said: “The Government wants the benefits of green transport to be felt by everyone, and understands the concerns of the visually impaired about the possible hazards posed by quiet electric vehicles.
“This new requirement will give pedestrians added confidence when crossing the road.”
Sales of electric vehicles are on the rise. Government statistics show that the number of ultra low emission vehicles (ULEVs) registered for the first time increased by 20% in Great Britain during 2018.
However, there have been long-standing concerns over the low level of noise these vehicles emit.
In May 2018, a campaign group claimed millions of vulnerable pedestrians, including blind people, are being put at risk because electric vehicles are too quiet.
Describing electrified vehicles as ‘silent killers’, SteerSafe criticised the authorities for fast-tracking the technology in a ‘desperate bid to reduce air pollution’.
The group’s founder, Christopher Hanson-Abbott OBE, said electric cars have ‘no artificial sound to warn of their approach’, adding that vulnerable road users face the biggest threat in built-up areas due to lower speeds.
The Government says the new legislation makes electric vehicles safer and provides greater confidence to vulnerable road users.