An MP has raised concerns in Parliament over the danger silent electric cars pose to horses on the roads.
Simon Hoare, MP for North Dorset, questioned transport minister Jesse Norman MP about whether protective measures would be brought in to safeguard riders as the use of environmentally friendly vehicles increases.
Mr Hoare, whose wife and three daughters ride, and who has ridden himself since childhood, said that while electric cars are “environmentally welcome”, their silence often presents “a huge problem for riders” owing to the “nervousness that is often caused in horses by these silent vehicles either going past or accelerating from a stop”.
“Will my hon. friend take this issue up with the car manufacturers to see what can be done to ensure that there is safety and environmentalism on our rural roads?” Mr Hoare asked the transport minister on 14 February.
Mr Norman replied that the government has recently been working to acknowledge horse riders within the Highway Code review, noting the “importance that we place on close passing”.
“[Mr hon friend] will also be aware that electric cars make a noise above a certain speed because of vehicle tyre slap. At low speeds, vehicle type approval regulations will mandate sound generators on new electric and hybrid electric vehicles from July this year,” he said.
Mr Hoare told H&H he had been motivated to raise the question in the House of Commons after a silent vehicle passed a friend of his who was riding, making the horse “go bananas”.
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“What seems to trouble horses is not the speed of the car but the movement when there is no sound, particularly when a car has pulled in to allow horses to go past and then suddenly starts to move with no warning,” he said. “It has been one of the unintended consequences of electric vehicles, and I am not blaming manufacturers or users, improving air quality has to be welcomed, as does less reliance on fossil fuels.”
The Conservative MP said he was “really pleased to hear from the minister that regulations are now in place so that all new electric vehicles will produce a noise at low speeds.”
The new guidelines will not apply to vehicles on the road before July 2019.
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