It's the law: Electric cars must make noise after September 2019

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's long awaited "Quiet Car" rule will require all electric vehicles to make noise, so pedestrians can better hear and avoid them.

Sean Hollister Senior Editor / Reviews
When his parents denied him a Super NES, he got mad. When they traded a prize Sega Genesis for a 2400 baud modem, he got even. Years of Internet shareware, eBay'd possessions and video game testing jobs after that, he joined Engadget. He helped found The Verge, and later served as Gizmodo's reviews editor. When he's not madly testing laptops, apps, virtual reality experiences, and whatever new gadget will supposedly change the world, he likes to kick back with some games, a good Nerf blaster, and a bottle of Tejava.
Sean Hollister
2012 Nissan Leaf SL

Nissan's all-electric Leaf has a system that emits sound when the car is traveling below 18mph.

Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Electric cars can be whisper-quiet -- but that will change. If you buy an electric vehicle after September 1, 2019, it'll automatically make noise anytime it's traveling at speeds slower than 18.6 miles per hour.

That's because the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has finally completed its "Quiet Car" rule, designed to pedestrians from getting hurt by electric cars that they can't hear.

The rule has been a long time coming: Congress passed the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act way back in 2010. That gave the NHTSA until January 2014 to finalize a mandate for EV noisemakers, but the government body kept pushing that deadline back.

And now that it's finalized, automakers will have nearly three whole years to put waterproof noisemakers on their cars -- instead of the 18 months originally envisioned.

Still, better late than never, and many automakers may move quicker than the law requires. Nissan's Leaf and Kia's Soul EV have had noisemakers for years now.

The NHTSA estimates that the new rule will prevent 2,400 injuries per year. You can read the full rule (PDF) right here.