Nissan, Renault, Peugeot and Citroen all put their collective heads together to tackle the issue of how to alert people when an electric vehicle is coming. Seeing as they make very little noise this has been a hot topic for makers and road safety charities alike and it seems the four manufacturers may have finally cracked it.
Oh So Quiet
Ever since the electric car started to become a reality the debate about how people would hear them coming has raged on. Until EVs arrived everyone had largely taken the fact you can hear cars coming down the road towards you for granted, and then all of a sudden everything changed. The only noise an EV really makes is the sound of the tyres rolling along the road and for many people that is just not enough, not only that but as it sounds so different to a conventional car it may not set off the same reaction in a pedestrian. Internal combustion engined cars have been around so long now the noise they create is part of most people’s psyche and as such feeling the need to move out of the way when they here one is almost instinctual.
Car makers were very much set with a challenge; to keep pushing on with EV technology and create better and better cars but to also make sure people could hear them coming so they didn’t get run over. This danger was particularity apparent when considering visually impaired people. For people with varying degrees of visual impairment hearing is the sense they use make sure they are aware of the world around them and a fast moving object that emits no sound is a dangerous one.
The challenge was not just about how to make a noise, any noise could be pumped out of a speaker system, it was to find a noise that did not annoy people but served the purpose of alerting them. Finding such a noise was something that was going to involve a lot of research.
The result of these four big manufacturers getting together is the production of a unique sound that is lower that normal fuelled engines but still audible. The lower tone is said to be far less annoying than even normal engines so should make city centres eventually quieter. The really exciting part of the system is that it only makes noise when it needs too, it only emits a sound when the car itself senses a pedestrian, cyclist or other type of non car road user. Once the system detects someone it actually plays the sound directly at them.
The system is called the eVader and it has been trialed for over a year in a prototype Nissan Leaf, the testing has been done in the real world so the system really does work. The aim was not only to alert people but also to maintain the quiet nature of the EV which is a big advantage when pedestrians are not around. The manufacturers hope this research and the eVader itself will shape the future of EVs for everyone.