EU mandate to hear the sound of silence from EVs and HEVs kicks in from July

From July 1, the EU Acoustic Vehicle Alerting System Law will be implemented. Acoustics export Harman explains the implications of this new legislation for new electric and hybrid vehicles

Autocar Pro News Desk By Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 05 Jun 2019 Views icon16640 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp

Conventional cars make noise and most people are all ears to even the relatively low rumble of a modern vehicle coming up behind them or somewhere around them. But with electric vehicles (EVs), which roll silently, pedestrians, the visually impaired and cyclists have barely a clue to what's near, even if it's green, clean and being seen.

Now, that silence is about to be broken as from July 1, all new private and commercial electric and hybrid vehicles in the EU with four or more wheels must have an Acoustic Vehicle Alert System (AVAS) fitted.

Now, that silence is about to be broken as from July 1, all new private and commercial electric and hybrid vehicles in the EU with four or more wheels must have an Acoustic Vehicle Alert System (AVAS) fitted.

The EU ‘Regulation on the Sound Level of Motor Vehicle’ (EU 540/2014) in combination with EU Requirement ECE R138, will ensure such vehicles are more easily heard by pedestrians, cyclists and vulnerable groups and follows more than a decade’s worth of campaigning by groups such as the European Blind Union.

The regulations state AVAS shall be activated for vehicle speeds up to 20kph, with a minimum sound level of 56dB; equivalent to the sound level of an electric toothbrush or paper shredder. The legislation also dictates the AVAS sound ‘should be a continuous one providing the vehicle driving behaviour to other road users and pedestrians.' For example, generating changes in sound level and pitch to signify acceleration.

What the legislation says
- ECE R138 & Article 8 of the EU ‘Regulation on the Sound Level of Motor Vehicle’ (EU 540/2014) states that by 1 July 2019 all new silent electric cars and hybrid vehicle types must have an AVAS.
- The minimum sound level at a speed of 20kph is 56dB. The maximum sound level is 75dB (comparable to a conventional car).
- Applies to all private and commercial vehicles with four or more wheels.
- Activated for speeds of up to 20kph going forward with a sound also emitted whilst reversing.

Sound policy: Make some noise
Since 2009, acoustics expert Harman has been developing its own AVAS system called external Electronic Sound Synthesis (eESS) under the HALOsonic active noise management solutions portfolio, thereby helping a number of OEMs adopt the technology ahead of the deadline.

Drawing on over 60 years’ of audio expertise, Harman's eESS creates a specific sound that is projected from speakers positioned at the front and rear of the vehicle. Speed and throttle position sensors determine the volume and characteristics of the eESS signal warning pedestrians of an approaching vehicle.

“Given the ever-increasing number of hybrid and electric vehicles on our roads, the risk to pedestrians, cyclists and vulnerable groups has risen exponentially over the years,” says Rajus Augustine, Senior Director Product Strategy & Planning, Car Audio at Harman. “AVAS technologies such as HALOsonic eESS offer an affordable and effective way of increasing pedestrian awareness of an approaching EV in noisy urban environments.”

Although not mandated by the EU legislation, Harman’s system is also modular to offer in-cabin sound to provide acoustic feedback on vehicle status thereby ensuring the driver is more connected to the vehicle. For example, the welcome sound when the electric motor kicks-in or the shutdown sound when the motor is switched off, provide the driver with acoustic cues, which otherwise would not be present in an EV. Moreover, eESS can be tuned to meet customer specific requests and/or comply with market specific regulations, such as in the US where eESS should be active even at speeds of 30km/h.

Additionally, HALOsonic lets carmakers create custom-designed sounds, thereby helping OEMs have a sound-signature that reflects the brand DNA of their cars. “Be it a sporty engine sound or a spaceship-like drone sound, HALOsonic is proud to be a key enabler for OEMs in their pursuit to stay a class apart without compromising pedestrian safety,” concludes Augustine.

Also read: EIB loans €73.5 million to Barcelona for hybrid, CNG and electric vehicles
UK moves closer to major battery plant for electric cars

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