Introducing the hybrid you can hear (so it won't run you over)

The fearsome roar of their engines is one of the first things to come to mind at the mention of Lotus, the stylish, lightweight British sports cars.

That familiar growl could soon be heard coming from a far more modest source: beneath the hitherto tranquil bonnets of other manufacturers' electric cars.

Lotus is developing technology that will put the roar of the traditional combustion engine under the hoods of eco-friendly vehicles, in an attempt to make the quiet cars safer for unsuspecting pedestrians – particularly the blind – and cyclists.

Stealthy hybrids and electric cars have come in for criticism from groups representing the blind and partially sighted, concerned that the low hum of the vehicles puts those with imperfect sight at greater risk of being hit on the roads. Some are almost silent at slow speeds.

Lotus said its "safe and sound hybrid technology" simulates the traditional grunt of a combustion engine, making it "instantly recognisable that the vehicle is in motion".

It has already put the system into a Toyota Prius, one of the most popular hybrid cars on the market. The device kicks in automatically to produce an artificial engine noise when the hybrid car runs on its electric motor. When the car's combustion engine takes over, sensors fitted to the engine and suspension turn off the sound.

The engine noise is produced by a waterproof loudspeaker positioned next to the car's radiator, making the sound seem to originate from under the bonnet. The system produces a pitch and frequency designed to help pedestrians identify the car's speed and distance.

Lotus adapted the system from technology previously developed to block outside noise from the inside of its cars.

Electric vehicles are tipped to become a more common sight on the roads over the coming decade as drivers seek ways of minmising the cost of ever-higher petrol prices and the issue of global warming moves up the agenda.

Mike Kimberley, chief executive of Group Lotus, said: "The increased acceptance of greener vehicles such as hybrid and electric vehicles is to be encouraged; they have an important role in improving fuel economy and reducing emissions. Our technology increases pedestrian safety, while retaining the car's environmental benefits."

Duncan Vernon, road safety manager for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, said: "We need to look at ways of ensuring the safety of pedestrians. We welcome innovative solutions which address this."

Lotus hopes that manufacturers of electric and hybrid cars will adopt the technology, which it says can also be fitted to cars already on the roads for a sum that would not "break the bank".

Pressure is growing on the Government to introduce minimum noise requirements for road vehicles, to ensure the noise-augmenting technology is used and that the new wave of quiet eco-friendly cars poses no risk to vulnerable pedestrians.

Clive Wood, transport policy officer at the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, said: "Blind and partially sighted people use the noise of oncoming traffic as a cue for when it is safe to cross a road. If a quiet hybrid electric vehicle is approaching, then they will no longer have this cue and are immediately put at risk."

He added: "We recognise the environmental benefits of these vehicles. However, more consideration needs to be given to the safety implications to visually impaired pedestrians."

Silent danger on the street

*Electric and hybrid cars are so quiet many fear they pose a risk to pedestrians. One US study found electric and hybrid cars moving slowly had to be 40 per cent closer to pedestrians than conventional vehicles before their location could be detected. They have no noisy pistons, internal explosions or fan belts which cause the roar we associate with the traditional car engine. Hybrids pose an added problem. For much of the time, they are powered by a combustion engine. But at low speeds, an electric motor takes over, making them very quiet. The new system from Lotus kicks in when sensors detect the electric motor is working.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv'The Last Kingdom' is based on historical events
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
filmSir Ian McKellen will play retired detective in new film
Life and Style
tech
News
Justin Bieber performing in Paris earlier this year
people
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman and Lauren O'Neil in Jamie Lloyd's Richard III
theatreReview: The monarch's malign magnetism and diabolic effrontery aren’t felt
Arts and Entertainment
'Molecular Man +1+1+1' by Jonathan Borofsky at Yorkshire Sculpture park
tv
News
Glamour magazine hosts a yoga class with Yogalosophy author Mandy Ingber on June 10, 2013 in New York City.
newsFather Padraig O'Baoill said the exercise was 'unsavoury' in a weekly parish newsletter
Extras
indybest
News
people'She is unstoppable', says Jean Paul Gaultier at Paris show
Sport
Alexis Sanchez and apparently his barber Carlos Moles in Barcelona today
football
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Accounts Assistant, Hammersmith

    £25000 per annum: Charter Selection: Exciting sports company with a strong bra...

    Financial Accountant-IFRS-Gloucester-£300/day

    £250 - £295 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Financial Accountant - IFRS - Glouc...

    Technical Support Engineer - Central London - £30,000

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Support Engineer - Central London...

    SharePoint/C# Developer - Aberdeen - Circa £40K + benefits

    £30000 - £40000 per annum + excellent benefits: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited:...

    Day In a Page

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
    Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

    Hollywood targets Asian audiences

    The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
    Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

    Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

    Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
    Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

    Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

    Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
    10 best girls' summer dresses

    Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

    Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
    Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

    Westminster’s dark secret

    Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
    Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

    Naked censorship?

    The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
    Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

    Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

    As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
    Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

    David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

    Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil