Mitsu’s sound think­ing

Silent SUV an­nounces its ar­rival with sub­tle safety-minded fan­fare

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News - TIM VAUGHAN CARS­GUIDE DEPUTY EDI­TOR tim.vaughan@news.com.au

AT THE dawn of mo­tor­ing, 120 years ago, Bri­tish road safety leg­is­la­tion re­quired a man with a red flag to pre­cede a horse­less car­riage to warn the un­sus­pect­ing pop­u­lace of the dan­ger ap­proach­ing at 3km/h.

Fast for­ward to the dig­i­tal age. The ad­vent of the elec­tric ve­hi­cle has brought a sim­i­lar de­vel­op­ment — the EV now has to make a car-like noise to alert pedes­tri­ans of its near­si­lent ap­proach.

So it is with Mit­subishi’s clever-bor­der­ing-on-com­plex Out­lander PHEV, on sale next week. Be­low 3km/h, the “world’s first plug-in hy­brid SUV” — its main claim to fame — rolls along silently.

As it ac­cel­er­ates up to 35km/h, the Acous­tic Ve­hi­cle Alert­ing Sys­tem emits a ris­ing tone that sounds like, well, a car in mo­tion.

Be­yond that, tyre noise and the ve­hi­cle’s dis­place­ment of air ev­i­dently give enough au­ral clues that it’s com­ing.

At high­way pace, the Out­lander’s 2.0-litre petrol en­gine cuts in, au­di­bly, with some of its 89kW. De­cel­er­at­ing from 32km/h or re­vers­ing, the PHEV again emits the acous­tic alert, from a speaker un­der the near­side front mud­guard.

The Bri­tish red-flag laws were re­pealed in 1896. In these liti­gious times, there is prob­a­bly still scope for a head­phone-wear­ing boof­head to take ac­tion against the driver of a ve­hi­cle that emits a warn­ing noise he can’t hear.

Mean­while, a ver­i­ta­ble United Na­tions of en­gi­neers is at work on in­dus­try stan­dards for EV acous­tic warn­ings. Mit­subishi EV prod­uct man­ager Ash­ley San­ders says the US federal safety body and Ja­pan’s road trans­port min­istry are col­lab­o­rat­ing with the car mak­ers.

“US leg­is­la­tion came in 2010, Ja­pan in 2009,” San­ders says.

“EVs have been in mass pro­duc­tion only since 2008 so fre­quently it’s tech­nol­ogy that’s driv­ing the reg­u­la­tions.

“Not all the com­peti­tors will de­velop their tech­nol­ogy the same way. There’s no spe­cific deci­bel level or tone, the tech has to meet noise profiles on a range of speeds.”

They won’t be mis­taken for phone ring tones. On the pro­hib­ited list are the sounds of sirens, chimes, bells, an­i­mals, in­sects and waves.

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