If all vehicles in the world were to go electric, would it be quieter?

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If all vehicles in the world were to go electric, would it be quieter? – Joseph, 10, Chatham, New Jersey


If everyone everywhere got a free electric vehicle at the same time – and owners were required to travel at very slow speeds on well-maintained roads – the world would look different.

But that doesn’t mean it would be quieter.

People may have different feelings about the same sound. As the founder of the Community Noise Lab at Brown University School of Public Health, I have a particular interest in how we as humans decide what sound is and what noise – we call this unwanted sound. We perceive the sounds we experience in our daily lives in many ways, from quiet to loud. And they can make us happy, angry, or anything in between.

These feelings can affect our health by relaxing or stressing us out. Studies also show that chronic noise exposure can affect your sleep and hearing, and contribute to health issues like heart disease.

How loud are the cars?

Gas-powered cars have been known to make a lot of noise, especially on highways where they can travel at high speeds. In 1981, the United States Environmental Protection Agency estimated that nearly 100 million people nationwide were exposed each year to traffic noise loud enough to be harmful to their health. At the time, this represented about 50% of the American population.

Many factors influence how loud a car is on the road, including its design, travel speed and physical road conditions. On average, cars traveling at around 30 mph on local roads will produce sound levels ranging from 33 to 69 decibels. It’s the range between a silent bookcase and a noisy dishwasher.

This video compares the decibel levels produced by loud, moderate, and quiet dishwashers.

For cars traveling at typical highway speeds, which is around 70 mph, sound levels go up to 89 decibels. This is equivalent to two people shouting their conversation at each other.

Electric cars and petrol/electric hybrids emit very low noise at low speeds because they do not have an internal combustion engine that produces noise and vibrations. To ensure that pedestrians will hear electric and hybrid vehicles coming, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requires these vehicles to emit sounds ranging from 43 to 64 decibels when traveling at less than 18.6 mph. Each manufacturer uses its own warning sounds.

At high speeds, there may not be much difference between gasoline cars and electric or hybrid vehicles. This is because other factors like tire and wind noise get louder as cars drive faster.

Urban noise is a serious health threat worldwide, and the main source is motor vehicles.

Quieter streets for everyone

Infrastructure also contributes to street noise. Cracks, depressions and holes in roads can increase noise levels as cars pass through them.

Lower income communities tend to have poorer quality streets and highways. So, not fixing the roads could stifle any improvement in a community’s soundscape from electric vehicles, literally.

Another way to reduce traffic noise would be to build more bike lanes and bike lanes in less affluent communities, which often lack them, and to encourage people to substitute this cheaper, healthier mode of transportation, cleaner and quieter when they can.

Electric vehicles are still out of reach for many people as most models cost more than gasoline-powered cars. So, in reality, the benefits of switching to electric vehicles — such as lower fuel costs, cleaner air, and somewhat quieter streets — now mostly accrue to people who live in more affluent communities and can afford electric vehicles.

This inequitable distribution of benefits is what the EPA calls environmental injustice: a situation in which not everyone has the same degree of protection from environmental and health risks. To share these benefits more equitably, electric vehicles will need to become as affordable as gasoline-powered versions.

Many people think of noise as a less urgent nuisance than other more pressing environmental issues like air and water pollution. As a result, governments fail to plan for noise, measure it, mitigate it, or regulate it in any meaningful way.

In fact, noise is a major environmental stressor that negatively affects the health and well-being of everyone, especially the most vulnerable. At the Community Noise Lab, we aim to shed light on the public health implications of noise, advocate for more holistic measurements of sound, and study noise along with other environmental pollutants like water and pollution pollution. air, working alongside vulnerable communities across the United States.


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#vehicles #world #electric #quieter

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