Abstract image of vehicle driving over sound waves
The new noise requirements will apply to all hybrid and electric passenger cars, trucks and buses with a gross vehicle weight rating of 4,536 kilograms or less

The requirements, which bring Canadian standards in line with those in the U.S., address safety risks posed by quiet vehicles, including potential collisions with cyclists and visually impaired Canadians

Electric and hybrid-electric vehicles are known for their near silent driving experience at low speeds. But that quiet could actually pose a risk to those who aren’t behind the wheel, according to Transport Canada.  

Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra announced in late April that the federal government is proposing a minimum noise requirement for all electric and hybrid vehicles sold in Canada.

The amendments to Canada’s Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations would ensure all such vehicles sold in the country will be equipped with sound emitters by 2023. The government’s reasoning is that EV and hybrids’ quiet propulsion may be unsafe for “visually impaired Canadians, cyclists, and pedestrians.”

“I wish to acknowledge and thank the many safety and advocacy groups — especially those who advocate for visually impaired Canadians — for their tireless efforts to raise awareness and champion this issue,” Alghabra said.

Some EVs already come with noise-added

Sound emitters are not a new concept for some EV brands. Tesla Model 3s have all had a “pedestrian warning system” since 2019 to comply with U.S. requirements, which sounds like a “spaceship” noise when reversing. The same year, BMW commissioned Oscar-winning film composer Hans Zimmer to create sounds for its EVs. The company just announced the next phase of their musical journey with Zimmer with new sounds for the BMW i4, the M version of the BMW i4 and the BMW iX. Models of Nissan’s Leaf also emit a low-level beep when reversing.

The U.S. “quiet car” rules were finalized in 2018, requiring manufacturers to equip their electric and hybrid vehicles to make sounds at speeds of 30 kilometres per hour (18.6 miles per hour) or slower. 

Originally proposed in 2010, the rules were based on a U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In 2009 a small-scale study was conducted that compared pedestrian accident rates between hybrid electric vehicles and conventional vehicles. Another larger NHTSA report in 2011 found sound (or a lack thereof) in hybrid electric vehicles to be a recurring theme in accidents involving the vehicles.

The proposed changes were published in the Canada Gazette I on April 24, with a 75-day consultation period ending July 8. After that, the new regulations will take effect as soon as they are published in Canada Gazette II.

Transport Canada says Canadian noise requirements will apply to all hybrid and electric passenger cars, trucks and buses with a gross vehicle weight rating of 4,536 kilograms or less. In the meantime, EV users will have to keep an ear out for what noise options manufacturers come up with next.