I have owned and driven a gas-electric hybrid vehicle for nearly 6 years. I had 2 reasons for wanting to purchase my Toyota Prius. One reason was that I was quite sure the price of gasoline would climb dramatically in the coming years. When I bought my Prius, gasoline was selling for just over $2.00 per gallon. I paid over $4.00 per gallon a couple of months ago on a trip to L.A. My other reason was that I wanted a vehicle that caused less pollution as I drove. If all-electric vehicles had a greater driving range or there were charging stations available, I’d probably be driving a all-electric vehicle right now.
Earlier this year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration made an announcement that a new regulation would be enacted to require vehicles with electric motors to produce an artificial noise. Their proposal states that electric and hybrid vehicles create a hazard for pedestrians when the vehicles are traveling at low speeds because there is no engine noise.
My wife and I frequently take walks around our neighborhood. During one of our walks recently, my wife remarked about a car that was approaching us, saying that she was sure it wasn’t a Prius that was approaching because she could hear it coming. As the car reached, we both saw that it was indeed a Prius that was approaching.
It is true that my Prius, when driving in electric only mode at very slow speed, is quite silent. But once the car reaches about 10 MPH, the tires make the same noise as other cars. With gasoline-powered cars that have quiet engines, the sound you hear from an approaching car is primarily the sound from the tires and not the engine. Drivers have a responsibility to watch for pedestrians just as pedestrians have a responsibility to not cross a road unless it is safe to do so. Requiring electric and hybrid vehicles to make an artificial noise at low speeds is unnecessary.