Volts and Leafs: Decisions, Decisions
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been worried for quite awhile that these new-fangled electric and hybrid cars would be sneaking up on unsuspecting pedestrians, since they make almost no noise when running electrically.
This is in marked contrast to your average SUV, which sounds remarkably like a train wreck as it rattles by.
Rulemaking beginsNHTSA today published a notice saying that it wants to requite that an alert noise be made by all light and low-speed vehicles, motorcycles, buses and heavy-duty trucks that use electric motors some or all of the time.
"Even as we make giant leaps forward with hybrid and electric vehicles, we must remain laser focused on safety," NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said in a statement. "With more and more quiet vehicles on the road, we have to consider their effect on pedestrians."
NHTSA held a public meeting on the matter back in June 2008 and, sure enough, by October 2009, had gathered statistics showing a higher rate of pedestrian accidents associated with hybrids than with gas-powered vehicles.
What kind of device will NHTSA require? A little bell, maybe? Or perhaps a whirring sound? Or just a plain old horn?
It's too soon to say, since the agency has until Jan. 4, 2014 to write what's called a “final rule.” Once the final rule takes effect, manufacturers would have until September of the calendar year that begins three years after the final rule's final publication.
In other words, September 2017.
General Motors is a little bit ahead of the game. Igt's plug-in Chevy Volt has an alert system that's activate when the driver pulls the turn-signal lever, the company said.