Listen up! What sound should electric vehicles make?

The Fun & Games Department here at the Built by Michigan headquarters was delighted to see that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wants hybrid and electric vehicles to make some noise due to safety concerns.


Apparently the near-silent operation of hybrids and electric vehicles at slow speeds puts pedestrians and cyclists at risk. NHTSA says requiring the vehicles to make some kind of noise when they’re going slower than 18 miles an hour would prevent 2,800 injuries and 35 deaths per year.

And we don’t want to make light of that very real risk, but it does leave the question: what sound should the vehicles make?

The dozen or so recommendations from NHTSA leave a lot to be desired, in our opinion, mostly just because they’re very modest variations on the sounds we’ve come to expect from internal combustion engines.

So we’re putting on our thinking caps to see if we can do better.

M-Live columnist Mike Wayland suggests that NHTSA might require hybrids and electric vehicles to be “loud and obnoxious like some trucks? Or maybe cartoony like an ‘awooga’ sound?”

Those jokesters at National Public Radio have run their own poll, with listeners making a “car load” of suggestions, including the sound made by a trading card in a bicycle’s spokes or a skateboard approaching from behind, guaranteed to make pedestrians scatter. By far the most popular suggestion they received was the sound George Jetson’s flying car made when he was taking off for work at Spacely Sprockets.

For our sake, we hope NHTSA considers this sound, guaranteed to make electric vehicles more popular with the younger audience, the car buyers of the future. 

The public has 60 days to comment on the proposed legislation: let your voice be heard, if not your car.