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Feds may make noise about sound shut-offs

Automotive News reports on regulations around sound-making devices in electric cars and hybrids.

Automotive News
Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
Hyundai's decision to exclude an on-off button delayed deliveries of the Sonata Hybrid from January until later this month. Hyundai

LOS ANGELES--On-off buttons for noise-making devices in electric and hybrid vehicles may be banned under rules federal regulators are developing.

Under a law President Obama signed January 4, EVs and hybrids must have sound-emitting devices in a few years. The law requiring automakers to install such devices addresses concerns about dangers posed to pedestrians unable to hear the vehicles, which are nearly silent at low speeds.

Hyundai opted to remove an on-off switch for the Sonata Hybrid's Virtual Engine Sound System after learning that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was considering banning on-off buttons for the devices.

"We were hearing that at some point NHTSA would not allow [the noise devices] to be turned off," said Jim Trainor, a Hyundai spokesman. "We said, 'Why put this thing out there now and have to redo it in a few months?'"

NHTSA is expected to issue a final rule enforcing the law within three years.

Hyundai had planned to include an on-off button for the noise device in a cluster left of the steering column on the Sonata Hybrid's instrument panel, Trainor said. But now, whenever the car is running, the system will produce a sound similar to that of a gasoline engine at idle.

Hyundai made the decision just before the Sonata Hybrid's production launch in December, resulting in delays of most deliveries of the car from January until later this month. Trainor declined to say how many Sonata Hybrids have arrived in the United States, but he said about 700 are in port or at sea.

Dealers can expect cars to trickle into dealerships before becoming more widely available in late March or early April, Trainor said. Unlike the rest of the U.S.-made Sonata lineup, the hybrid is built in South Korea.

(Source: Automotive News)