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Hybrid Cars - Friday 22 August, 2008

Electric cars a threat to pedestrians

ELECTRIC and hybrid cars, long heralded as saviours of a greener future, are now being labelled as potential killers.

Their near-to-silent running has been identified as a risk to pedestrians, children, cyclists and blind people who do not hear them approaching.

The Pedestrian Council of Australia has called for immediate changes to the Australian Design Rules to set a minimum noise for the vehicles. Similar standards are being considered in the US.

PCA chairman and CEO Harold Scruby said the group supported a hybrid noise requirement being legislated by the Federal Government before the vehicles became too popular.

"With an ageing population and the expectation of millions of these vehicles on our roads in the next five to 10 years, there will be a dramatic increase in pedestrian and cyclist road trauma unless this is done and without delay," he said.

Silent-running hybrids and electric cars have come in for criticism around the world from blind and partly sighted people.

Lotus Engineering, a division of sports car maker Lotus, claims to have an answer to the problem. It has developed a realistic engine sound for electric motor operating which varies with speed.