Electric vehicles make very little noise. This has created a public health risk, especially for visually impaired people who may depend on hearing cars in order to know where they are. As a result, the federal government is considering regulations that require the vehicles to make some sort of noise. And General Motors, in the process of developing its own extended-range electric vehicle, has its own solution in mind:
Zip! Zap! Or maybe Whooooosh! You know, something out of Star Trek.
Edmunds Inside Line explains, "Frank Weber, General Motors E-Flex vehicle line executive, called the Volt's sound ‘highly technical and compared it to ‘when on Spaceship [sic] Enterprise you hear the doors close, or use the transporter.'"
To clarify, Weber said, the sound will "have no relation at all to a combustion engine," and will be "highly pleasing, almost imperceptible."
Almost imperceptible. That solves the "electric vehicles make very little noise" problem.
Autoblog comments, "It's official. The Prius' place in the geek hierarchy has been eclipsed by the Volt."
On the GM-Volt website, Weber clarifies that the Volt will have a special feature to make the car's presence known to the visually impaired. "We have something that's called a pedestrian friendly alert. You would activate it as a driver. It is more pleasing (than a horn) and you would activate it much like you would your high-beam. This is how you would use it below 25 miles per hour," he said.
There is no word on what happens above 25 miles per hour, or whether Chevy has considered any alternatives that don't require the driver to notice pedestrians and warn them. Other systems we've seen produce constant, false engine noise, which doesn't depend on the driver to warn pedestrians.