The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has launched an investigation into whether hybrid and electric vehicles manufactured as early as 1997 should have pedestrian noisemakers to alert bystanders of their presence.
Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 141 was passed in 2018. It required all EVs and hybrid-electric vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of 4,536 kilograms (10,000 pounds) or less to have pedestrian noisemaker sounds that would allow people to hear whether a vehicle was nearby. At low speeds, EVs and hybrid-electric vehicles make relatively no noise, and due to their lack of an active combustion engine at travel rates of lower than 19 MPH, cars manufactured on or after March 1, 2021, were required to have some form of noisemaker that would alert pedestrians that they were nearby.
However, the NHTSA received a petition last July that argued all EVs and hybrid-electric cars, regardless of the date of manufacture, should have these noisemakers to warn pedestrians. According to the NHTSA’s Office of Defect Investigation, the petition aims to find any car without these required noisemakers as having a safety defect:
“The petitioner asserts that hybrid and electric vehicles to which the standard does not apply should be found to contain a safety defect. In support of the petition, the petitioner includes findings contained in a bill introduced in the House of Representatives in 2009, the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2009, H.R. 734, 111th CONG. (2009).”
Documents from the agency estimate the potential defect could affect 9.1 million cars, with vehicles from Nissan, Jaguar, Polestar, Tesla, Ford, BMW, Kia, Honda, Porsche, Land Rover, Chrysler, Ferrari, Toyota, and others being affected.
The petitioner states that the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2009, which became law in January 2011, states that all motor vehicles should establish a method for “alerting blind and other pedestrians of the presence and operation of nearby motor vehicles to enable such pedestrians to travel safely and independently in urban, rural, and residential environments.” Congress found during its research of the PSEA of 2009 that hybrid and electric-only vehicles produce “virtually no sound” and, that one day, hybrid or all-electric vehicles could “someday equal or exceed the number of internal combustion engine motor vehicles on the Nation’s roads.”
The NHTSA officially opened an investigation on January 27.
Vehicles manufactured as early as 1997 could be required to have pedestrian noisemakers installed. Saturn’s EV1 is the only vehicle on the list that goes back this far, but 1999 Daimler Chrysler GEM NEVs, and 2001 Toyota Prius, Daimler Chrysler GEM E825, and Honda Insight vehicles could be affected by the recall.
I’d love to hear from you! If you have any comments, concerns, or questions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also reach me on Twitter @KlenderJoey, or if you have news tips, you can email us at email@example.com.