Without an internal combustion engine, the Nissan Leaf electric vehicle could operate in near silence. That’s why Nissan has equipped each Leaf with a very unique safety feature: a synthesizer that emits noise to alert pedestrians to the vehicle’s approach.
Nissan didn’t just slap a noise maker on this crucial new product. Instead, engineers developed a system that would emit a distinctive spectrum of high and low notes.
“It’s not loud but it’s distinct enough that you can hear it sooner than you would a gasoline-powered engine,” said Tsuyoshi Kanuma, manager of the Nissan’s noise and vibration engineering group.
While electric vehicles like the Leaf, and even hybrids like the Prius, provide many advantages for consumers when compared to gasoline-powered cars, some also suggest they provide their fair share of risks. Because these vehicles produce little noise at slow speeds, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says pedestrians and bicyclists are hit twice as often by hybrids as by conventional cars at intersections and parking lots.
These risks have led U.S. lawmakers to draw up legislation aimed at protecting pedestrians. Until these new measures are signed into law, Nissan is already a step ahead of lawmakers to ensure the safety of its Leaf EV. As such, the Leaf is the first alternative-fuel vehicle to automatically broadcast a sound when the car is traveling at slow speeds.