UN noise regulations written by Porsche will lead to louder cars

Cars are set to become noisier as a result of a new legally-binding measurement standard to be agreed by a United Nations body.

The standard, applicable in 33 European countries (1), was designed by Porsche, a maker of sports cars famous for their loud engines, on behalf of the International Organisation of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers (OICA). Transport and Environment (T&E), is calling for vehicle noise standards to be regulated at the EU level, not by the Geneva-based United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

Road traffic noise, which causes serious heart conditions, is responsible for some 50,000 deaths a year in Europe (2).

The new noise standard aims to modestly reduce peak noise levels, for example at high revs. But the typical noise level under normal driving conditions could rise by up to 10 decibels, that is up to ten times louder than current levels, potentially as loud as an F16 jet.

The European Union does not regulate vehicle noise, having delegated responsibility to the UN body.

The working groups of the UN-ECE operate behind closed doors in Geneva, where many member countries are routinely represented by employees of carmakers.

The author of the OICA proposal, Porsche’s Dr Hans-Martin Gerhard, once said: “the caliber of a car is revealed by the exhaust note and the burst of noise from the car's drive train during acceleration.”(3) The German engineer seems an unlikely member of a panel with the remit to reduce vehicle noise.

Nina Renshaw, noise specialist at Transport and Environment, an environmental organisation that has observer status at the UN-ECE said: "It is bad enough that a supposedly independent regulatory body is dictated to by industry, but that the guy writing the rules comes from one of the worst offenders in the field of vehicle noise just beggars belief. The EU must take back control of vehicle noise standards and start taking this important public health issue seriously."

Download the T&E report: How the motor industry hijacked regulation of vehicle noise

(1) The standards will also apply in Japan, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa

(2) See T&E / CE Delft report

(3) See http://articles.latimes.com/2003/sep/14/magazine/tm-wired37?pg=2