Where do the project’s needs come from?
According to the EAA Report n.22/2019, it is estimated that 22 million people suffer chronic high annoyance and 6.5 million people suffer chronic high sleep disturbance. Environmental noise (i.e. road, rail, aircraft and industry) features among the top environmental risks to health, with an estimated 1 million healthy years of life lost every year from health effects including annoyance, sleep disturbance and ischaemic heart disease.
Environmental noise, and in particular road traffic noise, is a major environmental problem in Europe. At least 20 % of the EU population lives in areas where traffic noise levels are harmful to health. An estimated 113 million people are affected by long-term day-evening-night traffic noise levels of at least 55 dB(A). In addition, 22 million are exposed to high levels of railway noise, 4 million to high levels of aircraft noise and less than 1 million to high levels of noise caused by industries. These values are likely to be underestimated, given that the END does not comprehensively cover all urban areas, roads, railways and airports across Europe.
What are the acoustic differences between EVs and ICEVs?
For an internal combustion vehicle (ICEV), the engine contributes significantly to the overall noise made by the vehicle. Particularly at low speed, the difference between Electric Vehicles (EVs) and ICEVs can be over 10 dB; whereas the noise made by the tyres on the road surface becomes dominant above 20 to 30 km/h. At the speed of 10 km/h, an electric vehicle may not be detected until it is less than 5 meters away, whereas, under the same conditions, a vehicle with an engine can be heard up to 50 meters away. In order to overcome acoustic issues, some studies are focusing on making silent vehicles audible. Moreover, changes in tyre and vehicle characteristics call for a proactive strategy because of the expected consequences -primarily in terms of noise and pavement wear.
Why was ‘Via Michelucci’ chosen as the pilot area?
The Michelucci street in Florence is a 500 m long fast-flowing road consisting of one lane for each direction of travel and parking areas for cars and buses. The reasons that led to this choice can be found in the population density of the area (about 2000 inhabitants in a buffer of 50 m radius from the Michelucci street road axis) and in the average noise levels (estimated in 66 dBA Lday and 57 dBA Lnight) and the concerned perspectives. The choice of just one pilot area in Via Michelucci has been considered appropriate according to the preparatory and testing activities that will be carried out in the prototypal area of Nantes.
Florence was the first Italian city to install a charging station for electric cars and motorcycles, the first to make available licenses for taxi drivers who work with electric cars only, and the first to have activated the car-sharing of electric vans. In addition, the trends relating to the use of electric vehicles are constantly growing (there are currently about 2000 electric vehicles in circulation) along with the growth of charging stations (currently about 200).
How will the road scenario change?
A new alternative road system is scheduled in the next years, making it possible to relieve the traffic in Viale Fratelli Rosselli to easily reach the municipality of Scandicci. Moreover, the transit of EV in the area will increase significantly due to the expected new offices. Indeed, by 2020, the offices of the Directorate for the Environment and the Directorate for Mobility of the Municipality of Florence (which use only EV) will be transferred just to Michelucci street. The tramway line 4, which will be activated in 2022, will pass next to the pilot road and this will lead to a reduction in vehicle traffic. At the same time, the traffic flow, with an increasing percentage of EVs, will reach higher cruising speed and this will allow the presence of an optimal scenario with regard to the combination of asphalt and tyres optimized for EV.
What are the social effects of the project?
Positive health effects for densely populated areas are expected. This includes benefits by referring to noise-induced hearing loss, cardiovascular effects (e.g. hypertension, ischaemic heart diseases), psychological impacts (e.g. psychiatric disorders, and effects on psychosocial well-being), stress (sleep issues), annoyance, children physical development and cognitive development and, effects on animals.
How can electrical vehicles be positively involved in the change?
The number of people exposed to noise from road traffic far exceeds that exposed to rail, aircraft and industry sources. This is true at the European level, at the country level and both inside and outside urban areas and is due to the extent of the road network, which is greater than that of other noise sources. Reduced noise emissions constitute one of the attractions of Electric Vehicles (EVs), although it entails difficulties in detection, and it endangers pedestrians’ safety.
What are the implications for E-Via actions?
LIFE E-VIA actions pay specific attention to subjects’ feedback, planning interviews and sound walks, in order to deepen acoustic related issues. The spread of quiet electrical vehicles involves the definition of new solutions for the detectability while ensuring the lowest noise impact on environment. In order to make vehicles noticeable, possible solutions may provide non-acoustic or acoustic measures addressed to drivers or pedestrians. Thus, it is crucial to raise people’s awareness of noise pollution and correlated health effects within the LIFE E-VIA project.
Does the LIFE E-VIA project contribute to the implementation of UN Regulation No. 138 on Acoustic Vehicle Alerting Systems?
Yes, indeed the project envisages the analysis of noise emissions by electric vehicles (section B2.3). EVs have introduced technological changes which affect the vehicle noise sources characteristics, concerning the propulsion noise (distinct powertrains), the rolling noise (increased use of energy-saving tyres) as well as other sources like the Acoustic Vehicle Alerting Systems. The AVAS, already available on some EVs, becomes mandatory on new vehicle types from mid-2019 and concerns low-speed urban use (below 20 km/h). The noise source changes, as compared to ICE vehicles, may affect both quantitative noise levels and spectra characteristics.