Friday, June 18, 2021

Are Electric Cars Quieter than Gas-Powered Cars on the Road?

The number of electric vehicles (EV) is increasing in Alberta and across the globe. While this will positively impact greenhouse gas emissions in our cities, the impact EVs may have on road noise is less well known. EVs are undeniably quieter than their internal combustion engine (ICE) counterparts at start-up and while “idling.” However, road-pavement noise becomes dominant at highway speeds, making EVs and ICEs similar. 

Patching Associates Acoustical Engineering (PAAE) measured pass-by noise levels of locally available compact SUVs, comparing EV and ICE models on a local Alberta highway at various speeds. The results are shown below and indicate that at the tested speeds of 20+ km/h, pass-by noise emissions of EVs and ICEs on typical local pavement did not differ significantly.

While electric vehicles have the potential to reduce noise with very slow speeds (under 20 kph) and during idling and acceleration from standstill—where engine-generated noise dominates, such as in very congested city centres—these data show that the rise of EVs is not going to drastically change the situation for Alberta residents who are currently most affected by roadway noise—those living near busy arterial and highway road infrastructure.

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