US regulators developing law to ban on-off switches on EV sound devices

Article by Christian Andrei, on March 16, 2011

Under the new rules that federal regulators are developing, the noise-making devices in electric and hybrid vehicles can’t be turned off as the on-off buttons may be banned. In a law that President Obama signed on Jan. 4, EVs and hybrids are required to have sound-emitting devices in a few years, according to Autonews.

These devices are meant to address concerns that pedestrians are at risk because they won’t be able to hear the vehicles. As soon as Hyundai learned that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was considering banning on-off buttons for the devices, it decided to remove an on-off switch for the Sonata Hybrid's Virtual Engine Sound System.

Jim Trainor, a Hyundai spokesman, said that it heard that “at some point,” the NHTSA will not allow the devices to be turned off.

A final rule enforcing the law is expected to come from the NHTSA within three years. Trainor said that 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. As a result, the deliveries of its Sonata Hybrid were delayed.

This model was slated for a production launch last December and instead of deliveries starting in January, they will now begin later this March.

Trainor didn’t reveal how many Sonata Hybrids have arrived in the U.S. but he said about 700 are in port or at sea. Trainor said that the Sonata Hybrid will become more widely available in late March or early April. The hybrid is built in South Korea while the rest of the Sonata lineup is produced in the U.S.

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