Don't be surprised if you hear more of a racket from electric cars in Europe. As of July 1st, new four-wheeled EV models in the European Union require a noise-emitting device (Acoustic Vehicle Alert System, or AVAS) that kicks in whenever the vehicle is driving below 19km/h (12MPH). The system will theoretically prevent pedestrians and cyclists from being caught unawares by cars that would otherwise be near-silent. It's not a particularly irksome sound, as you can find out below, but it could stop you from crossing the street when there's a less-than-attentive driver.
All new EVs, including those from existing lineups, will have to include noisemakers by 2021. Cars already on the streets are likely to get retrofits.
The rules won't please everyone. The charity Guide Dogs and other accessibility advocates have called for electric cars to make sounds at all speeds. It might also irk people hoping that EVs could usher in an era of far quieter streets. Still, this could increase practical safety and help EVs gain acceptance from people worried they could become hazards.