A win/win/win situation – more fuel-efficient cars are quieter cars

New research commissioned by T&E has confirmed that measures aimed at improving fuel efficiency also reduce vehicle noise. The report was published just days before the environment committee of the European Parliament voted to tighten existing noise standards for vehicles, narrowly defeating an alternative proposal that would have allowed much louder cars, buses and lorries.

The research, published as Road vehicle noise versus fuel consumption and pollutant emissions, was timed to coincide with the MEPs’ vote. It was prepared by the Dutch consultancy TNO, which advises the Commission on noise and carbon emissions. The report shows that developments in engine technology that improve fuel economy – thus cutting greenhouse gas emissions – will also reduce noise. One example is the use of smaller engines with turbochargers, as smaller engines are quieter and a turbo reduces noise still further.

Another TNO study testifies to the financial benefits of making cars quieter – it says reducing noise from vehicles is clearly the cheapest way to reduce harmful urban traffic noise. This counters suggestions from the car industry, notably Porsche, that towns and cities need to be designed differently to better assimilate traffic noise.

MEPs on the environment committee had had their vote on revising EU noise limits postponed three times. The rapporteur, Miroslav Ouzký, was accused by T&E of allowing Porsche to write the draft guidelines, something he denied despite the proposals having the name of a leading Porsche executive, Hans-Martin Gerhard, as its author. In the end, MEPs had two proposals to consider, and they voted by a narrow majority to support the stricter of the two. Yet instead of allowing negotiations between the three institutions to start, enabling the process to continue, Ouzký referred the legal text to a vote by the full Parliament, something he was not obliged to do, further delaying the proposal’s entry into force.

T&E cars officer Cécile Toubeau said: ‘It is reassuring to see that more MEPs were willing to accept the need for quieter vehicles than were willing to believe the industry’s spin. Most of the technologies that make cars and vans more fuel-efficient also make them quieter, so this is a win/win situation. In fact, given that there are benefits for the battle against climate change, for residents enjoying quieter cities, and for consumers getting more distance from their litre of fuel, it is really a win/win/win situation. Unfortunately, it will be at least seven years before this legislation leads to quieter vehicles on the roads, so for Mr Ouzký to introduce another delay by asking the full Parliament to vote on this dossier is deeply regrettable.’