Are Electric Cars Really Going to Quell Traffic Noise?

It’s well known electric cars are quieter than gasoline-powered counterparts, but will this translate into quieter streets and cityscapes as EVs proliferate?

To ponder the question, Clean Technica did a bit of analysis to come up with an answer of “yes and no.”

On the one hand, EVs are generally quieter not just because of the relative lack of engine noise, but because they’re usually more aerodynamic and because their tires are sometimes quieter. Clean Technical observed there are four components of traffic noise: Engine noise, road noise, tire noise, and wind noise. That means that EVs typically do well in three of the four categories.

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Traffic noise is an important issue – quieter vehicles could have a negative impact on pedestrian safety but a positive impact on the health of people who live near busy streets.

The publication dug deeper into the math and science involved, and notes that humans can only really perceive changes in noise of about 3 to 5 decibels. This means that the average person might not even really notice the noise reduction.

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Still, the proliferation of EVs does mean there will less engine noise – and not just from standard vehicles. More EVs could also mean a drop in the sales of intentionally loud vehicles like poorly muffled muscle cars, diesel trucks “rolling coal,” motorcycles, and what not. These vehicles will still be sold, but if fewer are sold, that can bring down the level of traffic noise.

Of course, changes in road surfaces and tires in recent years have already brought overall traffic noise down. According to Clean Technica, these existing changes and the fact that humans can only detect so much change in road noise mean that highway noise will not be noticeably less, but road noise in cities will be, especially since lower-frequency noise like engine noise is already more noticeable to humans.

So more EVs means less noise, but we might not notice.

Clean Technica