Noise limits for cars will be tightened to protect public health, under new rules informally agreed with EU ministers and endorsed by Parliament on Wednesday. The new law requires the introduction of labels to inform buyers of the noise levels of new cars, as well as the addition of sound to hybrid and electric vehicles to alert pedestrians.
Persistent exposure to high levels of traffic noise can prove physically draining, disrupt organ functions and contribute to cardiovascular and other diseases, according to research by the European Environment Agency, which also shows that traffic exposes half the EU's urban population to noise levels above 55 decibels (db).
"I consider the final text adopted under the trialogue negotiations as an optimal compromise that will contribute to the protection of health of our European citizens. On the other hand, it should not cause any loss of competitiveness for the European automotive industry. I am happy that the proposal found broad support across the political groups in the European Parliament," said the rapporteur, Miroslav Ouzký (ECR, CZ), after Parliament endorsed the agreement he negotiated with EU ministers without a vote.
Stricter sound limits
Once in force, the new rules will phase in new limits by 1 July 2016, 2020 and 2024. The first phase will only apply new engine noise limits to new vehicle types. The second and the third phases will bring in lower decibel values and also include all new vehicles produced, two years after they start (i.e. 2022 and 2026).
The limit for standard cars will be reduced to 68 db in 12 years, from the current level of 74 db. More powerful vehicles will be allowed a margin of 1 to 9 extra decibels. The rules bring down the limit for the most powerful heavy lorries (over 12 tonnes) to 79 db from 81 db. MEPs point out that vehicle noise is also affected by the road surface and tyre noise.
Following pressure from MEPs, the legislation also recommends that new cars be labelled to provide consumers with information on their noise levels. Similar labelling schemes already exist for fuel efficiency, tyre noise and CO2 emissions.
MEPs are concerned about quiet electric and hybrid cars becoming a threat to pedestrians and cyclists, and say that manufacturers must install Acoustic Vehicle Alerting System (AVAS) in new types of hybrid electric vehicles by 1 July 2019. The Commission should draw up the requirements on the future system by July 2017, they say.
Procedure: Co-decision (Ordinary legislative procedure), second reading agreement