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German ideas would lead to louder cars

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The German government has launched an initiative on reducing noise from cars that would lead to dramatic noise increases. T&E is warning that the German proposals, presented to the UN Economic Commission for Europe, show that Germany’s car industry is looking to secure permission for certain high-performance cars to be twice as loud, and Porsche sports cars four times as loud as normal cars.

The move by Germany’s transport and environment ministries was timed to influence the UN-ECE’s working group on noise which met this month. They propose a series of exemptions to noise limits that would allow certain sports cars, like those made by Porsche, to be driven at up to 100 decibels, equivalent to a pneumatic drill.

The German government, which is believed to have been heavily lobbied by the country’s powerful automotive industry, is also putting pressure on the UN regulatory body to delay new noise limits for lorries. It is asking for a 1-decibel reduction compared to the current limit, set in 1992, and says this reduction should only enter into force 14 years after the new regulation is adopted, which effectively means not before 2027-28. Half of all vehicle noise is caused by lorries.

T&E deputy-director Nina Renshaw said: ‘It’s no coincidence that Germany’s move comes just before the European Commission is due to publish its proposal for a new vehicle noise regulation. We suspect Germany will present a similarly weak proposal to the working group on the EU regulation. And it’s not the first time the UN’s regulatory body for noise has been influenced by the German car industry – in 2009, T&E found that an earlier UN-ECE proposal for vehicle noise had been written by a Porsche engineer on behalf of the global car industry lobby.’

The EU’s regulation is likely to be agreed well before any UN-ECE standard, but the UN-ECE’s regulation is likely to apply in non-EU signatory countries – including wider Europe, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa – hence Germany’s attempt to influence the EU through seeking similar limits at the UN.