The automotive world is, it seems, a very strange place.

Less than a month after Hyundai admitted it had delayed the 2011 Sonata Hybrid launch in the U.S. to remove a feature that let the driver disable its virtual engine sound at speeds below 12 miles per hour, Nissan Europe has confirmed that it will be removing the reversing beeper on its U.K. specification 2011 Nissan Leaf. 

Confirmed on the same day as the official sales launch of the 2011 Nissan Leaf in the U.K., some sites are claiming the car’s March rollout will be pushed back while the problem is rectified.

2011 Nissan Leaf, Nashville, October 2010

2011 Nissan Leaf, Nashville, October 2010

Legal Tangles

So why is one company delaying a launch to put in a noise maker, while another is removing it? The reason happens to be the same for both cars: Legislation. 

While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the U.S. caved in under increasing pressure from political campaigners and the national Federation for the Blind to require all electric and hybrid vehicles to emit fake engine sounds at any speed below 12 miles per hour, the U.K. government prohibits the use of audible alerts on vehicles between the hours of 11pm and 6am. 

The only exceptions are emergency vehicles, allowed to sound emergency sirens when the need arises, and motorists sounding their horn attempting to prevent an accident. 

Quick Modification

As a consequence, every car entering the U.K. from Nissan’s Oppama factory in Japan is required to have its standard reverse warning beeper removed before it can be delivered.

This includes the initial shipment of 67 cars which arrived in the U.K. in early February aboard Nissan’s new energy-efficient car transporter. 

No Big Delay

But in contrast to some reports claiming the last-minute modification would delay the rollout of the 2011 Leaf, we were able to talk with Linda Robinson, Press Communications Manager for Nissan Motor GB who confirmed that the rollout was not going to be delayed.

“We said we would commence deliveries in March 2011, but we didn’t say we would start deliveries on March 1” Robinson told us. “Yes, we have to disable the beepers on all cars coming in from Japan, but that won’t delay deliveries by any more than a day or two at most”

Nissan has also made it clear that it aims to make all of its scheduled March deliveries on time. At the same time, unconfirmed reports from those on the Nissan Leaf waiting list suggest that Nissan may even be delivering some of its Q3 allocated vehicles in Q2. 

Lotus Safe & Sound noisemaker

Lotus Safe & Sound noisemaker

Noise or Not?

This story makes it obvious that different countries view the noise electric cars should or shouldn’t make in very different ways. 

Admittedly, we’re still finding it hard to accept the need for noise-makers at all, especially in the light of extensive data suggesting that more noise for electric and hybrid vehicles is really not needed

For now however, it looks like European electric car and hybrid owners can continue to enjoy true low-noise trips around town without the need for extra beeps and burbles emitting every time they drive at low speed, while U.S. customers have to put up with all that extra noise. 

Beeping electric cars? You’ve not heard the last of it. Yet.