A new regulation has been introduced for all new electric vehicles (EV) sold in Europe, one that is aimed at making it safer for road users, notably pedestrians. As of July 1, all new four-wheeled EVs on the Continent are required to have a noise-emitting device during low-speed operation, the idea being to prevent those walking and cycling on public roads from being caught unaware by silent-running vehicles.

The noisemaker comes in the form of an Acoustic Vehicle Alert System (AVAS), which utilises sound generators to produce a specified level of noise when an EV is reversing or running below 20 km/h. The sound generated will be similar to that made by a conventional engine, and can be temporarily deactivated by the driver if judged necessary.

There is no fixed sonic signature to AVAS rules, so automakers will be able to decide how their system will sound like. The move to introduce AVAS will particularly aid the visually-impaired by audibly signalling to them the presence of an approaching electric vehicle, although some parties have called for the ruling to make EVs audible at all speeds to ensure even higher levels of road safety.

The new regulation to make acoustic systems within electric vehicles compulsory was passed by the European parliament in 2014, and the end of the five-year transition period means that all automakers selling all-electric vehicle models will have to start incorporating the device.

The regulation applies to all new models of electric and hybrid vehicles introduced from July 1 this year, and all existing EV and hybrid models currently on sale by July 2021. News reports indicate that EVs and quiet hybrids already on the streets may have to get an AVAS system retrofitted in the future.