Reducing Noise Pollution with EVs: A Catch-22?
The early versions of the Toyota Prius were eerily quiet compared to traditional gas-powered cars, but that’s not where noise reduction ended. Once plug-in hybrid EVs hit the market, these cars could start in virtual silence and drive away quietly. Although the quietness of an electric vehicle is one of its many benefits, could this silent treatment be problematic?
Do EVs help reduce noise pollution?
Without a doubt, electric vehicles reduce the noise made by vehicles. This reduces noise pollution, which is positive in most locales but not for everyone. Typically, noise pollution comes from:
- Transportation – noise emitted by cars, buses, trains, planes, and other vehicles
- Construction – noise from construction equipment and activities
- Industrial – noise from factories, power plants, and other industrial facilities
- Home appliances – noise from dishwashers, washing machines, dryers, etc.
- Large events – noise from concerts, sporting events, and other large gatherings
Although sounds can be useful during our everyday lives, too much noise pollution can be harmful. The National Geographic Society calls it “an invisible danger,” which makes reducing noise from cars with more EVs, is something that could improve our collective health.
How much electric vehicle noise can you expect to hear?
Vehicles traveling on the road will make some sounds regardless of how silent they might be. The EV sound level made from tires and wind at high speeds is still some noise, but it’s not quite enough. Many countries legislate that EVs must emit a sound of at least 56 Decibels. This is the same sound level as an electric toothbrush.
Not only are EVs required to make this sound, but they are also required to mimic the behaviors of the vehicle. This means the sounds will grow louder and with a higher pitch when the EV speeds up. Although automakers must add a fake EV sound level to these vehicles, it might not be enough.
Are electric vehicles loud enough?
Most are familiar with the phenomenon that the other senses become heightened when a person loses one sense. That said, people who have lost their sense of sight rely on sounds from vehicles to understand when it’s safe to cross a road or how far away a vehicle is from them. With EV sounds reduced to the level of an electric toothbrush, this can make things more difficult.
Imagine being blind and listening to gas and diesel-powered vehicles on the road. You might realize it could be extremely difficult to notice the low-level sounds made by electric vehicles. As more EVs hit the road, this could become less of a problem, or the opposite could be true.
This brings us to another question; are EVs loud enough to help our vision-impaired population determine the distance from them to the EV on the road?
Although EV noise is much less than gas and diesel-powered vehicles, which reduces the amount of noise pollution on the road, these nearly silent vehicles might not be loud enough for a segment of our global population to feel safe when crossing a street.