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EVs in More Collisions with Pedestrians than ICE vehicles

A Genesis electric G80, on a city street | Photo: Genesis
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Daniel Rufiange
Electric vehicles are quieter at low speeds and are thus less apparent to pedestrians and cyclists on the road, it's that simple.

Quiet at low speeds, electric vehicles are involved in twice as many collisions with pedestrians as gas-engine-powered models (per distance driven on average), according to a new study.

The Guardian reported this week on the results of a study carried out in England into electric vehicles and rates of collisions with pedestrians. Those results show that, per distance driven on average, electric and hybrid vehicles collide with pedestrians twice as often as ICE (internal-combustion-engine) vehicles.

This is not due to bad driving as such, let’s be clear. The problem is that the vehicles are too quiet at low speeds. “Electric cars are a hazard to pedestrians because they are less likely to be heard than petrol or diesel cars,” explains Phil Edwards, lead author of the study and professor of epidemiology and statistics at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

In the U.S., the Department of Transportation has also found that electric and hybrid vehicles present a 20-percent higher risk to pedestrians than gasoline-powered ones. It has proposed new minimum noise requirements for electrified vehicles.

We were recently testing the Silverado EV, and when stationary, we could clearly hear a background noise indicating its presence. We were told that from 27 km/h and up, this noise begins to diminish. The risk, as you'll have gathered, is at low speeds, often in urban areas with heavy traffic. Right-hand turns and reversing are among the common manoeuvres that can pose a danger to pedestrians if the vehicle is too quiet.

In the United States, the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), the equivalent of Transport Canada, has established rules concerning the sounds that each electric vehicle must emit at low speeds. At higher speeds, the sound of wind and tires is enough to alert pedestrians.

The Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV
The Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV | Photo: Mercedes-Benz
Daniel Rufiange
Daniel Rufiange
Automotive expert
  • Over 17 years' experience as an automotive journalist
  • More than 75 test drives in the past year
  • Participation in over 250 new vehicle launches in the presence of the brand's technical specialists