NHTSA Might Force Owners Of EVs From 1998 To Make Their Cars Louder

Electric Vehicles / 6 Comments

Old EVs produced from as early as 1997 may require a retrofitted noisemaker.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) is pondering whether hybrid and electric vehicles that were produced as far back as 1997 should be retrofitted with acoustic warning systems to alert pedestrians of their presence, reports Teslarati. Interestingly, the NHTSA did not initiate the investigation independently and only launched an inquiry after it received a petition from a third party.

Some context: On April 27, 2018, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 141 came into effect, requiring all hybrid and electric vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of 10,000 pounds or less to feature a pedestrian alert system of some sort that emits a noise when traveling at speeds of 30 kph (18.6 mph) or lower. This would become applicable to cars manufactured on or after 1 March 2021.

But now, a petition has been filed aiming for hybrids and EVs produced long before then to adhere to the same law, potentially affecting vehicles manufactured as early as 1997.


According to the NHTSA's Office of Defect Investigation, the petition claims that near-silent hybrid and electric vehicles without such a pedestrian alert device "should be found to contain a safety defect." The petition references the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2009, which came into effect in January 2011. This law mandates that all vehicles should have a way of "alerting blind and other pedestrians of the presence and operation of nearby motor vehicles to enable such pedestrians to travel safely."

Following the petition, the NHTSA launched an investigation on 27 January. The government agency estimates that this potential defect may affect around 9.1 million vehicles, so which ones could fall under this scope?


Well, if you own a Saturn EV1, you probably aren't driving it very much but may still need to retrofit some kind of pedestrian alert device. If you were one of the people who bought 1999's strange electric buggy called the GEM NEV or its larger E825 sibling, you'd also be affected. The 2001 Toyota Prius, first-generation Honda Insight, and Ford's ill-fated Ranger EV from 1998-2002 would also fall under the NHTSA's scope.

These days, automakers don't need to be told to fit noisemaking devices. BMW teamed up with Hans Zimmer to compose unique sounds for vehicles like the iX SUV, and Ferrari intends to create its own version of the Dodge Fratzonic Chambered Exhaust.

While the benefit is clear to see for modern EVs, many of those produced as far back as 1997 are so slow and poorly built that they have not survived to this day, which is probably why the NHTSA didn't investigate before this petition.


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