Trump May Eliminate Warning Noise Mandate for Hybrids and Electric Cars

In its push for deregulation, the Trump Administration may eliminate a controversial rule for electrified cars.

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Proposed rules that would require hybrid and electric cars to emit noises to warn pedestrians may hit yet another roadblock under the Trump Administration. The rules were finalized in December after years in legal limbo—but may now be eliminated as part of a wider push for automotive deregulation.

In fiscal year 2018 budget documents provided to Congress, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it is considering six areas for deregulation. The noisemaking rules constitute one of those areas, according to Bloomberg. However, the agency said nothing in the documents constitutes a final decision.

The requirement for hybrid and electric cars to emit noises was mandated by Congress in 2010, but the rules weren't finalized until December of last year. They require all new hybrid and electric cars with four wheels and a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of less than 10,000 pounds to emit audile noises at speeds up to 19 mph.

Automakers have until September 1, 2019, to equip all of their electrified cars with noisemaking devices, but half of all new hybrid and electric cars must have the devices one year prior to that. This puts automakers in an awkward position; they don't have much time to wait and see if the NHTSA repeals the rules, meaning they might have to equip cars with noisemakers that would become unnecessary if the rules are eliminated.

The noisemaker rules stem from a fear that cars operating on electric power are too quiet for pedestrians to hear. Both the American Council for the Blind and the National Federation of the Blind are major supporters of the rules, and the NHTSA has said they could prevent up to 2,400 pedestrian injuries per year.

But automakers have claimed regulators are taking things too far. They previously said the sound requirements would make electric cars louder than some internal-combustion cars, and claim there isn't enough data to support the NHTSA's conclusion that hybrid and electric cars are more likely to be involved in collisions with pedestrians.

The NHTSA estimates adding the devices will cost about $130 per hybrid, and $55 per electric car. So implementing the noise mandate wouldn't be as costly or complex as, say, meeting stricter fuel-economy standards.