UNECE works on standard for sound device to equip silent electric vehicles

On 7 September 2010, the Working Party on Noise (GRB), a subsidiary body of the UNECE World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations (WP.29), host a live demonstration of sound devices that could equip “silent electric cars”.

“Silent cars” are electric vehicles that do not emit the noises caused by combustion engines. While they constitute a key contribution to reducing carbon emissions and rising consumer awareness about climate change, they may also prove to be an additional risk for pedestrians and other road users.

The noise emitted by classical vehicles provides very useful information to pedestrians and other road users on the presence of one or more vehicles, their approximate speed, whether the vehicle is accelerating or decelerating, etc.

By nature, “silent electric vehicles” do not offer this information. They may thus constitute a safety risk for blind or visually impaired people, but also for all pedestrians, especially children and the elderly, as well as for cyclists and other vulnerable road users.

In order to tackle this risk, the WP.29 decided in March 2009 to establish a GRB Working Group with the mandate to come up with a proposal for a UNECE Regulation on a sound device for silent vehicles that would provide this sound information.

At the meeting of the GRB held from 6-8 September 2010, the GRB Working Group on Quiet Road Transport Vehicles (QRTV) reviewed a first progress report on the group’s work that concentrated on the following issues:

* Examining the safety risk of silent cars,
* Identifying information needed by vulnerable road users,
* Assessing the effectiveness and acceptability of technical solutions; and
* Developing harmonized technical requirements for the performance of sound-generating systems.

The mandate of GRB is to come up with a proposal for a draft Regulation at the latest in February 2012.

“The development of acoustic warning devices for electric and hybrid electric vehicles, which market share is rapidly growing in many countries, will be an important element to enhance the safety of these vehicles”, declared GRB Chair Christian Theis (Federal Ministry of Transport, Germany). “A UNECE Regulation will ensure a consistent approach across the industry, which is key for the effectiveness and acceptation of such devices.”

The Working Party on Noise (GRB) is one of the six subsidiary bodies of the UNECE World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations (WP.29). Until now, it concentrated its work on defining maximum noise levels for vehicles in order to limit noise pollution.

The demonstration with four different “silent cars” organized on 7 September was jointly organized by the European Association of Automobile Suppliers (CLEPA) and GRB’s Japanese delegation.