Should electric cars make noise?  It’s one of the most contentious arguments in the electric vehicle world today, with passionate cases made on both sides for and against warning systems designed to announce the presence of a plug-in car to pedestrians. 

But early reports coming out of a recent United Nations committee on noise levels in plug-in vehicles suggest that all electric cars will soon be expected to emit warning noises at low speed. 

Back in May last year, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the American Council for the Blind and the National Federation for the Blind presented proposals to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) detailing how automakers could make electric cars more audible to pedestrians. 

Since then we’ve seen a continued debate as automakers try to make their cars more audible at low speed and electric vehicle advocates and motoring journalists ponder if creating sounds for silent EVs is an unnecessary solution for a problem which doesn’t exist. 

EU tire makers oppose tire noise regulations

EU tire makers oppose tire noise regulations

The ensuing confusion even caused problems with vehicle roll out, with Hyundai’s 2011 Sonata Hybrid needing last-minute work to prevent its audio warning system from being turned off by the driver. 

On the other side of the Atlantic, U.K. shipments of the 2011 Nissan Leaf were similarly delayed, but this time to remove the reverse warning beeper from cars after it became apparent the use of a reverse beeper at night time would violate local laws. 

With so many mixed messages about audible low-speed warnings for electric cars we’re glad the U.N. has stepped in, but we have to admit that we know of plenty of regular gasoline cars which make very low noise at low speed and not one has to have an on-board noise maker. 

We don’t know the full details of the committee report, but can guess at the outcome: electric cars may not be all that silent for all that long.