From July 2019, by law every new electric car sold will have to make a noise so that pedestrians – especially those who are visually impaired – can hear them coming.
But despite having nine months until that deadline, Jaguar has revealed the sound its electrified vehicles will make in the future, including the £58,495 I-Pace SUV – and it is likely to divide opinion.
Click on the video link below, turn your speakers up and take a listen for yourself.
With no engine sound at all, road safety groups have previously referred to electric cars as ‘silent killers’ that put the lives of children, the elderly, the blind, the deaf, headphone wearers, the preoccupied and the unwary in jeopardy.
Guide Dogs for the Blind reported back in 2015 that anyone with a visual impairment was 40 per cent more likely to be run down by a car that makes barely any sound than one that’s powered by a petrol or diesel combustion engine offering an audible warning.
Measures are set to be put in place to make electric powered vehicles less of a threat to these individuals.
The EU will introduce new rules that will demand that all manufacturers add low-speed alerting sounders to their new electric powered vehicles – including hybrids – from next year.
And by 2021 every electrified car on the road will legally have to be retrofitted with devices that can be heard at low speeds.
But Jaguar has decided to introduce an electric car noise well ahead of deadline.
Called the Audible Vehicle Alert System, it has been developed for the brand’s first electric car, the I-Pace, which is currently the model of choice for Prince Charles.
Jaguar used an anechoic chamber – a specialist echo-free room – to ensure that the sound was suitable for guide dogs to hear
Previous studies by Guide Dogs for the Blind found that those with a visual impairment were 40% more likely to be hit by an electric car than a petrol or diesel vehicle that makes a sound
While the noise produced is loud enough to be heard outside the car, it can’t be heard by the occupants inside – fortunately
With the help of Guide Dogs for the Blind, Jaguar engineers have developed a sound that can be heard at speeds up to 12mph (20km/h) and exceeds the 56 decibel minimum required by the forthcoming European legislation, which will be the strictest in the world.
The noise is four years in the making and designed to be audible for pedestrians but not heard by those inside the vehicle.
Owners and potential buyers will thank Jaguar for that, as the noise is – in short- very grating if listened to continuously. We think it sounds like a low-level air-raid siren.
The unique tone sounds somewhat different to the noise engineers had originally embarked on creating.
The British manufacturer said its technicians had developed a sound that was like a ‘sci-fi spacecraft’, but the soundtrack had to be shelved because pedestrians reacted by looking up at the sky rather than at the road.
The car produces a different noise when it’s in reverse to notify pedestrians of the change of direction
Jaguar technician Iain Suffield (left) with John Welsman from Guide Dogs for the Blind
Iain Suffield, a Jaguar technical specialist, said: ‘Our potentially life-saving technology cannot be switched off and as the leading charity for people with sight loss, we are pleased to have the support of Guide Dogs to ensure real people are at the heart of our product testing.’
Engineers tested the sounds in a number of environments, including an anechoic chamber (specialist echo-free room) and various urban scenarios, before settling on this sound for the I-Pace.
It’s emitted from a speaker located behind the front grille, can be heard in every direction and cannot be disengaged.
The alert increases in pitch and volume in line with the speed of the vehicle and, when in reverse, is accompanied by an additional tone that indicates the change in direction.
Suffield said technicians had worked on the perfect sound for Jaguar’s electric cars for four years
The first plan was for the sound to replicate a spacecraft, but during tests pedestrian would repeatedly look up rather than at the road
All electric cars – new and old – will have to produce a sound under EU laws from 2021
‘AVAS is not required at higher speeds as there is sufficient wind and tyre noise for pedestrians to hear the zero-emissions vehicle approaching,’ Jaguar confirmed.
John Welsman from Guide Dogs for the Blind said the development would benefit two million children and adults living in the UK affected by sight loss.
‘Guide Dogs campaigned hard to make it compulsory for quiet vehicles to have sound generating systems built in and turned on, including when the vehicle is stationary at a pedestrian crossing,’ he said.
‘We applaud Jaguar for being the first to launch an EV which meets standards before the new legislation even comes in and look forward to working with the company more in the future.’
The I-Pace SUV went on sale earlier this year.
The brand’s first electric model uses a state-of-the-art 90kWh lithium-ion battery, two Jaguar-designed motors and a bespoke aluminium structure.
It’s capable of 0 to 62mph in 4.5 seconds and has a range of up to 292 miles by the current emissions test cycle.
However, a trek across Europe last month – including driving through the Channel Tunnel – suggested the range was only good enough for around 252 miles in the real world.
EU will make it mandatory for ALL hybrid and electric cars to make a sound at low speeds from 2021
A report by the Guide Dogs charity found that pedestrians are 40 per cent more likely to be run over by a quiet hybrid or electric car than by one with a petrol or diesel engine.
And as the number of green vehicles grows because of Government tax breaks for eco-friendly cars, the number of injuries they cause has been rising fast, it said.
The research showed a 54 per cent increase in pedestrian injuries in accidents involving quiet cars between 2012 and 2013.
The charity – which says that guide dog owners and their animals are particularly at risk from vehicles that they cannot hear coming – called for laws to make noise generating systems compulsory on all hybrids.
Guide Dogs for the Blind manager James White said: ‘Quiet vehicles put pedestrians at risk outside schools, in residential areas and in our towns and cities.
‘The Government is spending hundreds of millions of pounds to increase the numbers of quiet cars on the roads, and while we support the development of environmentally friendly vehicles, more needs to be done to protect pedestrian safety.’
Car builders and independent companies have been working on a range of artificial sound generators that would lessen the risk of accidents.
Most involve speakers fixed to the car, which work in the direction the car is moving to reduce nuisance to people who are not in the way.
Sounds promoted vary from a reproduction of the whine of an old electric motor through computerised squawks to a rumble reminiscent of a diesel or petrol combustion engine.
EU rules say such generators must be fitted to new electric and hybrid models from 2019 and retrofitted to existing quiet cars by 2021, but Guide Dogs said that before then there will be thousands more potentially dangerous green cars on the road.
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