WHETHER THEY wind up powered by lithium - but not necessarily Bolivian lithium - or by some small lizards running on gerbil wheels hooked up to dynamos, or by some new, as yet uncommercialized method of generating electricity, like by siphoning the glowing fluids from fireflies, electric vehicles (EV) will be upon us soon enough.
EVs are nearly silent when compared to the average car's internal combustion engine. A 2008 study by the University of California, Riverside, showed that test subjects could hear a gasoline-powered auto when it was 28 feet away, but that EVs were only heard by the time they were seven feet away.
In an effort to prevent a person in the near-future from become a statistic, safety experts are encouraging manufacturers of EVs and hybrid EVs (HEV) to install speakers in the bumpers to emit a sound to warn pedestrians.
This is supported the US Congress' introduction of the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2009, which requires a federal standard to protect pedestrians from super-quiet cars.
It would be great to say that this is a silly idea - enough people use their car's horn as it is, you'd think they'd leap at the chance to use it more - although a good way to add on to an EV's price tag,
and while I agree with advocacy groups like Plug In America that say drivers be more responsible with their new vehicles, I think these bumper-speakers might be a fairly good idea.
Because in the world where these bumper-speakers do not exist, the first person to get hit by an EV will probably some adult moron who didn't "cross at the green/not in between," as the public service announcement jingle from the 1970s warned children at the time.
Of course, there are those who say that the problem isn't that the new cars are too quiet, it's that we have gotten used to having our ears routinely overwhelmed with the sounds of autos.
By the way, these new bumper-speakers are going to need some sort of cute nickname: BS'ers? Hmmm... That may become a very popular nomenclature for these devices, but not one that any corporate entity would respond to, I think - but what do I know? I thought the term "Hummer" would never make it as a name for the SUV.