Are electric cars quiet?

Fast read

Electric vehicles (EVs) are significantly quieter than traditional combustion engine vehicles, which makes them an environmentally friendly option.

The absence of mechanical valves, fans, petrol motors, exhaust and gears in EVs eliminates much of the noise that is present in conventional cars. However, this doesn't mean that EVs are completely silent, as they still create some noise when in motion.

Additionally, newer four-wheel EVs are required to be equipped with an acoustic vehicle alert system (AVAS) to alert pedestrians, especially when the vehicle is reversing or travelling at low speeds.

How silent are electric cars?

Unlike traditional combustion engine vehicles, electric vehicles are almost completely quiet. The main reason is that electric cars don’t require mechanical valves, fans or gears. However, whether a car runs on petrol or electricity, motion generates noise. Therefore, the simple answer is yes: compared to combustion engine vehicles, electric cars are quiet. However, they are not completely quiet. 

Where does the noise come from?

When resting, the noise from an electric vehicle’s engine is insignificant since it doesn’t even have an engine that burns fuel. Furthermore, the vehicle has no tyre or engine sound when standing still. Since there were many concerns about pedestrians not being able to hear EVs approaching. All new four-wheel EVs must have an AVAS (acoustic vehicle alert system). This electric vehicle warning sound system sounds like a regular engine. The AVAS must sound when the EV is reversing or travelling at less than 30 km/h. A pedestrian should be able to hear the EV above background noises

However, this is not the rule worldwide, so the problem is still a cause of concern in many other countries. 

In addition to the type of vehicle, the speed at which it is moving and the road conditions can all affect the noise output. For instance, a larger electric SUV travelling at high speeds on a bumpy road may make more noise. It is likely that a little electric car travelling at low speeds on a smooth road is relatively quiet.

Tyres can make noises, depending on the road surface and this type of noise and the noise level is similar no matter what type of engine the vehicle uses.

electric car being charged

Residents living in homes close to major roads are looking forward to the EV revolution, as it will make their environment and home more liveable

Why is being quiet important?

One of the main reasons electric cars being quiet is such an important topic of conversation is noise pollution. Noise pollution is one of the biggest contributors to sleepless nights with residents living near busy streets. With EVs becoming increasingly popular, a decrease in noise pollution observed during COVID-19 lockdowns may become permanent. At roughly 15km/h combustion, engine vehicles can generate up to 55 decibels. This is significantly more than the World Health Organisation’s recommendation for liveable habitats. 

In saying this, tire and wind noise account for a large percentage of noise pollution from vehicles, which are consistent in both vehicle types. However, many manufacturers have aimed to increase efficiency in their EVs. In doing so, they have emphasised aerodynamics, which reduces the drag coefficient. This has allowed for reduced wind noise in electric vehicles. 

Although electric cars are significantly quieter than combustion vehicles allowing for an overall reduction in noise pollution. Many EV drivers have even complained about the absence of engine noise and vibration,  as drivers now only hear wind and road noise. For gas-powered vehicles, sound-reducing materials are added without significantly impacting mileage. However, this cannot be done with EVs since adding extra weight reduces the battery range. 

One of the funny observations with new drivers of an EV is that as soon as they press the start button, after a few seconds, they press it again, as they never heard the roar of the starting engine, which is exactly what they are used to.

busy traffic

So how quiet are electric cars?

Although electric cars are extremely quiet, especially in comparison to gas-powered vehicles, it’s hard for a layperson to say they are 3 times or 5 times less noisy, as hearing is very subjective.

Being so quiet that hard to tell where the vehicle is coming from, is not always preferred when one is crossing the road. Therefore, nowadays, even more than before, it is crucial to look both ways before crossing the road and make sure as an EV driver, you pay extra attention to the road, especially when driving through pedestrian crossings. 

In conclusion, even though engine noise is often lower in electric vehicles than in standard vehicles, drivers and passengers can still hear other sounds. Many people consider the quietness of electric vehicles to be a benefit, but it can also present some difficulties, particularly regarding pedestrian safety. Some nations have passed laws forcing electric vehicles to emit artificial sounds at low speeds to alleviate this problem. Just ask blind or vision-impaired residents who have demanded this feature be installed for a few years now.

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