NISSAN is a big noise in the world of electric motoring.
The Japanese giant is ahead of the game after news carmakers could be compelled to install artificial noise on new electric and hybrid vehicles to protect pedestrians.
International standards drawn up by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe are expected to become law by the end of next year.
But Nissan is already working on its own warning system. The firm will start producing the Leaf – the world’s first all-electric family car – at its Sunderland plant next year.
A spokesman said: “Although there are no regulations today that require automakers to have pedestrian-alert sounds on their cars, Nissan has taken the initiative to develop the Approaching Vehicle Sound for Pedestrians (AVSP) in response to public concern about the quietness of electric vehicles and hybrids.
“In developing the AVSP, Nissan studied research on the behaviour of the visually impaired and worked with cognitive and acoustic psychologists.
“The sine-wave sound system sweeps from 2.5kHz at the high end to a low of 600Hz, an easily audible range across age groups. Nissan worked to avoid a sound range that would add unnecessary noise to the environment (about 1,000Hz).
“The AVSP is actually comparable in frequency to that of an Internal Combustion Engine petrol vehicle driving at a similar speed.”
Research carried out last year by TRL, formerly the Government’s Transport Research Laboratory, found pedestrians were proportionally more likely to be hit by an electric car than a conventional one.
The plan to introduce warning systems has won support from motoring safety organisations.
Robert Gifford, executive director of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, said: “This initiative would avoid the potential of an unintended consequence of policy: in attempting to tackle climate change, we see a rise in pedestrian and cyclists deaths or injuries.”
Kevin Clinton, head of road safety at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (Rospa) added: “It is quite right that a European standard is being developed for vehicle noise as it is important that vehicles, such as plug-in and hybrid electric cars, are not completely silent. Pedestrians and cyclists need to be able to hear traffic approaching for their own safety.”
Kevin Clark’s spin on the quiet:
I WAS one of the first journalists to get my hands on the Nissan Leaf when I took one of early imported models for a spin around the low carbon test track next to the Sunderland plant a couple of years ago.
Certainly, the lack of engine noise was one of the most noticeable differences between the electric car and a conventional engine – especially at low speeds such as would be encountered in car parks or at pedestrian crossings.
Pulling away from the car park and on to the track, there was no audible sound from the car at all until we got up to above 20mph, and even then, it was only the rumble of the tyres on the Tarmac.
At lower speeds, the Leaf is almost entirely silent, and that’s why I can understand the need to come up with some way of alerting pedestrians to its presence.
Imagine a car that makes no more noise than a milk float but will do 0-60 in about seven seconds and you begin to understand the necessity of fitting some sort of system to alert pedestrians.