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Noise assessment of the Acoustic Vehicle Alerting System (AVAS)

Electric drive technologies in motor vehicles result in a reduction of noise emissions from the drive train and exhaust tract, especially in low speed ranges up to approx. 30 km/h. At higher speeds, rolling noise from tyre-road contact usually dominates. While the positive effects on noise protection are undisputed, possible effects on road safety for non-motorised road users (on foot and by bicycle) due to reduced vehicle noise are critically discussed. Especially blind and visually impaired road users are repeatedly mentioned as being particularly at risk against the background of increasing registration numbers of electric and hybrid electric passenger cars (hereinafter: e-cars), if the sound source of the drive and exhaust train, which is omitted in electrically driven motor vehicles, is not adequately replaced. The Acoustic Vehicle Alerting System (AVAS), which has been mandatory for all new e-cars since July 2021, addresses this issue and is intended to improve the perceptibility of quiet vehicles in the low speed range. However, the potential for reducing noise emissions cannot be fully exploited.

On behalf of the Federal Environment Agency, STUVA, together with the Institute of Vehicle Technology at the Technical University of Cologne and the former head of the Immission Control Department of the Senate Department for the Environment in Berlin, Mr Bernd Lehming, investigated how the noise reduction potential of electrically powered vehicles can be exploited without restricting road safety. 

The following research questions were addressed:

  • What is the legal framework and the technical requirements with regard to AVAS?
  • What is the accident risk for pedestrians and cyclists in view of the increasing number of electrically powered vehicles registered?
  • Which groups of people are particularly at risk in connection with the perception of quiet motor vehicles?
  • How does the acoustic perceptibility of e-cars and motor vehicles with combustion engines differ?
  • What are the decisive factors for the acoustic perceptibility of external vehicle noise?
  • Which different positions and perspectives determine the current discussion on AVAS?
  • Which alternative measures are suitable to replace the current AVAS?

Stakeholders from different disciplines were involved in the process of finding the results through interviews and a workshop held by the project.

Answers to the above questions and recommendations for action can be found in the final report on the project (FKZ 3718 54 100 0), which is available free of charge via the adjacent link. 



How quiet should electric cars be without endangering other road users?
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Dr.-Ing. Dirk Boenke
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