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© University of Warwick Electronics Production | September 24, 2010

Electric cars: <em>Elvin</em> to the rescue

A little green van called <em>Elvin</em> is whizzing around the University of Warwick as part of a major research project aimed at tackling the safety issues linked to the lack of sound from electric vehicles.
However ELVIN (Electric Vehicle with Interactive Noise) faces a risk of being perceived as a little green man rather than as a little green van. It will be able to emit many different sounds aimed at alerting pedestrians and other road users that he is nearby. One of the range of sounds being tested is said to invoke memories of early science fiction movies and the researchers will have to be sure it really does alert pedestrians and other road users to oncoming electric vehicles rather than causing them to look skyward for more unearthly vehicles.

People who hear Elvin’s sounds will be asked to give their opinions on a range of issues including whether they are suitable as a warning or whether they are just annoying. Professor Paul Jennings from WMG at the University of Warwick, the lead researcher on the project, said: "Electric Vehicles are very quiet externally and internally, which makes them a potential low-speed safety risk to pedestrians. Sound not only alerts people to the presence and direction of a vehicle, it also indicates the type of vehicle – for instance a bus – and whether it is stopping or accelerating."

"The lack of sound can also make the vehicles unattractive to customers who expect, and even enjoy, aural feedback whilst driving. The obvious solution is to artificially add appropriate sounds, but which sounds? At the same time, we don’t wish to lose the potential benefits of reduced annoyance from traffic noise", he continued.

Roger Williams, Technical Director of NoViSim , said: "The fundamental questions are, which sounds should be used for which vehicle, and how should they vary according to what those vehicles are doing."
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Note: WMG is carrying out the research with vehicle sound experts NoViSim of Hertfordshire, and Danish company EC Tunes.

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