Nissan makes a big noise for Leaf
NISSAN is making a big noise about its new electric car, the Leaf.
So much so it has gone to the trouble of finding a sound to fill the near-silence that is characteristic of electric motors.
The Leaf gets here in February and will cost €29,995 -- that's after government subsidy (and the price includes the battery).
The noises have been added as safety devices to protect pedestrians and other road users who are used to being able to hear vehicles as they approach.
They are crucial for the visually impaired who rely on the sound of car engines.
Nissan says its Approaching Vehicle Sound for Pedestrians (VSP) -- get used to the terminology -- has been developed after four years of research with leading universities and the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology.
The VSP system is activated for both low-speed forward driving and reversing.
The 'going forward' sound is described as being a bit like a distant jet engine, while reverse comes with an electronic beep similar to what you'd hear on larger vehicles.
Then it gets interesting. Nissan says tyre noise alone makes a sufficiently audible sound at 30kmh upwards. So the 'going forward' sound stops at that speed. It kicks back in again when the Leaf slows to under 25kmh.
If you don't want the noise at all you can disable the system. That has sparked some criticism from the US National Federation of the Blind. It says that it "in effect allows drivers to deactivate this important safety feature and thereby endanger pedestrians, especially those who are blind".
Nissan says that the disabling feature is temporary and the sound will automatically be re-engaged when the car is restarted.
The Leaf will go on sale in Japan, the United States, Portugal and the Netherlands in December.