Silent Running: Ford Sought Exception on Federal Noise Requirements for Hybrid Cars, EVs

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
silent running ford sought exception on federal noise requirements for hybrid cars

One of the benefits touted by early electric car advocates was a reduction in noise pollution stemming from automobiles. Electric motors have the potential to run far quieter than their internal combustion rivals, which could result in softer-sounding roadways.

The U.S. Department of Transportation started seriously worrying about the safety implications of silent-running vehicles back in 2010. Still, it wasn’t until this year that it legally imposed artificial noises on EVs as a way to warn inattentive or impaired pedestrians. Starting in 2020, vehicles with a GVWR of less than 10,000 pounds must emit a pedestrian-warning noise at speeds below 18.6 miles per hour.

However, despite a lengthy dialogue between government and industry, Ford was apparently seeking an exception for the federally mandated noise maker.

According to The Verge, Ford issued a comment on the the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) final ruling on the matter from February. Apparently, the automaker expressed its intent to comply with the ruling but wanted to know if it would be feasible to suspend the sound for certain applications.

That comment has since been redacted, but the government said it would respond to a comment submitted by Ford “regarding the legality of equipping certain vehicles used for security purposes with a means of turning off the required pedestrian alert sound.”

Why would any automaker want such a thing? The most likely application would be law enforcement. One of Ford’s biggest selling points for its Police Responder Hybrid Sedan is that it’s useful for quiet patrolling. The company also offers a user-configurable “Silent Mode” on law enforcement models that disables interior lamps and daytime running lights. That feature would only be sweetened by a vehicle that could also crawl into position without the clattering of an internal combustion engine or some artificially manufactured hum.

A representative for the NHTSA told The Verge that Ford’s comments were made after the public comment period ended in October 2015, adding that publicly accessible references to the automaker’s request had been “inadvertently left in.” Ultimately, the agency decided that that “addressing the late comment would delay issuing the notice” on the EV noise ruling.

As the inclusion of noise below 19 mph exists specifically to improve public safety, automakers may have a hard time getting an exception for certain vehicles. However, the NHTSA is still considering Ford’s claim.

Join the conversation
2 of 30 comments
  • Iddqd Iddqd on Aug 30, 2018

    believe it or not but there are sound engineers working on the perfect sound for an EV for couple of years (this is for europe/germany...until those idiots finally surpass Telas`s standards as to range/ charging) that is..

  • Whynotaztec Whynotaztec on Aug 30, 2018

    I was surprised to hear a little song coming from my Accord hybrid while on battery power. I’m in the US and thought only the Canadian version did that. Anyhow I would prefer the sound of an 8v92.

  • SCE to AUX Love it, and the price is a bargain, actually. The clean exterior is nice.Also, this caught my attention: "105mm throttle body"... that's a lot of air flow.
  • Tassos I predict this will be a big hit and conquer new markets. Housewives will be lining up to grab them, and the dealers will charge $200k a unit. Why? Because they already buy SUVs and crossovers they never needed, which have much less interior space than their minivans. So they will sacrifice a bit more of that space, but at least they will not drive identical looking crossovers with their accursed neighbor's wife.I also predict the Tesla Plaid and even lesses Teslas will beat the living daylights of this idiotic vehicle, and without even breaking a sweat.
  • Bobbysirhan I fully expect to be reading about the last-of-the-line Challenger Demon 170 Redeye Widebody three years from now.
  • Dougjp Finally, luxury/strong performance in a compact size car. Unlike the Civic R, the market for this segment has predominantly automatics buyers. Yet year after year, it appears Acura can't make such a car. They did have a 10 speed with torque (Accord), which counters the thought that they can't make a torque capable automatic.Oh well, look elsewhere I guess.
  • Analoggrotto The real question, how many years or months after the end of production will this vehicle be completely eliminated from the street? Neon lights, yellow spoiler covers, idiotic stripes, brazzers license plate frames, obnoxious exhausts and all.