• Measures to improve fuel efficiency also reduce vehicle noise, T&E report reveals

    After three postponements the Environment Committee of the European Parliament will finally vote next week on noise limits for vehicles. Contrary to industry concerns, a new report published today by Transport & Environment (T&E), Europe’s sustainable transport campaigners, shows that making cars more fuel efficient is fully compatible with making them quieter too.

    T&E report, which draws upon evidence in a new TNO study (a group of independent experts that advise the Commission on both noise and CO2 regulations), demonstrates that engine technology developments that improve the fuel economy of cars will also reduce the noise generated by vehicles. One such key advancement is the shift to smaller (downsized) engines with turbochargers. Smaller engines are inherently quieter and the fitting of a turbo also reduces exhaust noise.

    The vote, scheduled for 18 December, will set tighter noise limits from cars, vans, lorries and buses and update the testing method. Traffic noise is the most widespread environmental health problem in Europe, affecting the lives of almost half of Europe’s population, some 210 million of EU citizens. Traffic noise is associated with around 50,000 deaths a year due to heart attacks and to some 200,000 cases of heart diseases [1].

    Another TNO study shows that making cars quieter is the most cost-effective way to reduce harmful urban traffic noise. TNO estimate the cost will be just €20 per car for each decibel reduction. The benefits of reducing vehicle noise in better health and quality of life and higher property prices outweigh the costs by a factor of thirty.

    T&E clean vehicles manager Greg Archer said: “Most of the technologies which make cars and vans more fuel efficient also make them quieter – this is a win-win solution. Curbing noise from vehicles is also cheap with huge benefits for the health and quality of life of urban residents.”

    Vehicle noise standards have not been updated for 20 years and nearly a quarter of cars and a third of light lorries tested over the past five years already meet the strictest standards proposed by the European Commission [2].

    Greg Archer concluded: “An alliance of Green, Socialist and Liberal MEPs has clearly seen making vehicles quieter is a sound investment. We call on all Members of the Environment Committee to vote for a quieter life.”