Regulation: Minimum Sound Requirements for Hybrid and Electric Vehicles

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Department of Transportation (DOT) rule requires hybrid and electric vehicles to make a minimum amount of noise, implementing a costly solution where there is no problem. Lower noise is a benefit of hybrid (HV) and electric vehicles (EV), and diverts valuable resources away from productive activities without a sound justification. NHTSA simply assumes that HV and EV crash would cause fewer accidents if they were louder without any evidence and without adequately addressing alternative causes. The requirement that a vehicle make elevated levels of noise when a vehicle is standing still, backing up, or operating at low speeds (below ~18 mph) is a typical federal power play. Dangers of collision are generally reduced at these speeds because the impacts of low-speed collisions are less severe and drivers can more easily avoid collisions at lower speeds. NHTSA haphazardly calculates the benefits of the rule using a purported reduction in crash rates for vehicles starting from stationary positions or moving in reverse, even though its results are not statistically significant. The regulation counts reduced accidents with cyclists among the benefits of the regulation, even though few cyclists are blind or visually impaired individuals—the main desired beneficiaries of the regulation. In fact, NHTSA admitted that its statistics contained no information on whether pedestrians involved in HV or EV accidents were blind or visually impaired, so it’s not even clear they would benefit.