Electric cars operating in serene silence is one of their biggest upsides. It also happens to be a problem, one Chevrolet thinks it has the answer for with the 2019 Volt. The reduced sound of electric motors whirring instead of a gasoline engine banging away means that they’re less noticeable by sound on the road. This makes them a bigger hazard than they would otherwise be for the visually impaired and pedestrians who aren’t paying attention, and U.S. rules will require sounds soon.
Up until now, Chevy has come up with two different ideas to help solve this problem. Initially, the Volt included a pedestrian-alert horn button that the driver had to physically press to activate. When the second-gen Volt came out in 2015, it featured an always-on, one-speaker system that emitted a high-pitched buzzing sound. Now in 2019, Chevy thinks it has a much better solution.
On 2019 model year Volts, there will be two small waterproof speakers in the front and rear of the car that are linked up with the vehicle’s gear selection and speed. That means the amount of noise emitted by the new Volt will vary with speed. Drive faster, and the sound will get louder. The actual tone of the sound is strange and almost trance-like in nature — it seems attention grabbing enough, without being displeasing to our ears. We’re sure you’re worried about the sound getting into the cabin and ruining the peaceful driving experience. Well, Chevy says it’s specifically designed to not reach the cabin, but we’ll have the final say on that one.
As of now, the Volt is the only Chevrolet to get this pedestrian safety feature, but the Bolt could adopt it soon too following feedback from the court of public opinion on this one.