‘With no noisy engine, what do you hear?’

nissan-fb-noise-polleditors-blog-entry3While advocates for the blind in the U.S. are working to pass a national law that would require that EVs and hybrids be fitted with an artificial noise-making device that would produce a constant sound, some automakers are pushing a rather different vision of electric cars.

For instance, Nissan was playing up the LEAF’s comparative silence on Facebook tonight, streaming a poll that queried LEAF fans about how they would react to driving a quieter car into its Facebook fans’ news feeds — yes, yours truly is part of the Nissan LEAF Facebook fan club.

Here’s the specific question Nissan posed:

‘With no noisy engine, what do you hear?’

  • Friends
  • Music
  • Talk Radio

nissan-leaf-gray-cementFrankly, I don’t think the Nissan marketing folks in charge of the LEAF Fan Club pages counted on some of the directions that the comment stream actually went in.

For instance, much of the commentary was taken up by a heated exchange between bicyclists and anti-bikers.

And then there was the inevitable, “Passengers farting” response by one of the more than 40 people who’d commented on the poll as of 9:45 p.m. Mountain Standard Time tonight.

Nissan marketing folks in charge of this Facebook Fan club — many of whom I have a sneaking suspicion are college-aged interns — did get some of the responses they were most likely hoping for: ‘Satellite radio’, and ‘Myself karoek-ing with the radio’, among them.

They also managed to elicit this interesting response from LEAF fan Rob Burns:

“I heard Nissan was looking at adding noise makers (outside & inside) to make users/pedestrians aware that the car is ‘on’ or approaching. Don’t do that. Its like the emergence of the the ‘horseless carriage’ in the last century; the world will have to evolve…”

The point here isn’t so much that Nissan got a variety of responses — some of them off-the-wall, some of them quite interesting. What’s fascinating is that Nissan and other EV makers, for instance, Tesla, are actively playing up the comparative quiet of EVs and attempting to harness this relative quiet as a highly desireable feature.

Note to those who want a quiet EV/PHEV/hybrid: Buy one sooner rather than later. SolarChargedDriving.Com has determined that any sort of national law requiring artificial noise be added to plug-ins and hybrids will not be retroactive.

This approach is severely at odds with the NFB message that “silent” vehicles kill.

Seems like the battle lines are being drawn, albeit a bit indirectly on the part of automakers like Nissan, in what could turn out to be a controversial and high-stakes debate about EVs and noise.

Right now, my inclination is to think that the NFB will win this one, mostly because carmakers like Nissan won’t fight demands to install artificial noise-making devices on their EVs, PHEVs, and, yes, hybrids.

However, there is still a wild-card player who could swing the outcome one way or the other: Plug-in and hybrid consumers.

I’m actually not sure what most of these consumers think about the plug-in/hybrid + artifical noise issue, though it’s clear that most of the EV-ers we’ve interviewed for SolarChargedDriving.Com, or who’ve come to our web site and participated in polls on this issue are very much against an artificial noise-making device.

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Personally, I think there’s little doubt that some sort of noise-making devices will eventually be required to be added to plug-ins and hybrids.

(Note to those who want a quiet EV/PHEV/hybrid: Buy one sooner rather than later. SolarChargedDriving.Com has determined that any sort of national law requiring artificial noise be added to plug-ins and hybrids will not be retroactive.)

What’s still very much in play is what this noise-making device — advocates for the device surely will prefer that it be called a sound-making device — will do, when it will be on, how loud it will be, etc.

Gentleman, start your engines (if you have one ;-), the plug-in/hybrid noise debate is about to rev up.

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