Position paper – Vehicle noise: Setting the appropriate limits
As part of a renewed emphasis on environmental noise policy, the European Commission has updated the regulatory framework for vehicle sound emissions.
In 2021, the Commission adopted the EU Action Plan, ‘Towards Zero Pollution for Air, Water and Soil’. This aims to reduce pollution to levels that are no longer considered harmful to health and natural ecosystems. It includes a range of key 2030 targets that are designed to cut pollution at source. One of these is to reduce the share of people who are chronically exposed to transport noise by 30%.
The European Automobile Manufacturer’s Association (ACEA) is committed to the objectives of this action plan. With a view to examine how transport noise pollution can be reduced, ACEA commissioned ATEEL to conduct a study on ‘Future sound limit values for type approval for vehicles of category M & N’.
This study, published in January 2022, provides an in-depth analysis of how the goals relating to transport-related environmental noise burdens can be achieved. It examines vehicle type approval values and sets out scenarios that explore the impact and efficiency of reduced sound limit values across a wide range of environmental conditions. By extension, it also considers the introduction of alternative and complementary measures to reduce environmental noise under real traffic conditions.
This position paper summarises the main conclusions of the study:
- Reducing the environmental noise burden for European citizens is a long-term process, and a clear roadmap has been set out through the Zero Pollution Action Plan.
- Taking into account the time for market penetration of new vehicles, environmental noise will continue to drop, even without further legislation.
- The positive impact of new vehicles can be further increased by additional measures such as low-noise road surfaces, especially for hotspot areas, and the incorporation of other elements such as windows offering sound and thermal insulation.
- E-mobility will have a positive effect, but mainly for single-event noises.
- A reduction in single-event noise peaks, including consistent control of illegal modifications of vehicles and/or their components, and of antisocial driving is necessary.
- Measures that reduce environmental noise should be reflected in environmental noise assessment tools (noise mapping).
- Progress in technology towards quieter vehicles is not considered in EU noise mapping tools. As a result, noise maps tend to estimate the sound sources as louder than they are in reality.
Automobile manufacturers and their suppliers take their responsibility to reduce transport noise seriously. Support from other stakeholders, particularly policymakers, is also needed to maximise the impact of quiet vehicles in everyday road traffic, and to make progress in noise abatement perceivable to European citizens.
Support from other stakeholders, particularly policymakers, is also needed to maximise the impact of quiet vehicles in everyday road traffic, and to make progress in noise abatement perceivable to European citizens.
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