There have been some unusual suggestions as to how to counter the fact that electric cars have quiet engines over the years – but perhaps this one is the most amusing yet.
Lord McColl, a Conservative peer, has suggested that electric cars be fitted with a small Swiss cowbell to warn pedestrians they are approaching. The peer, who is also a party health spokesman, raised the issue with Lord Adonis, the Transport Secretary, in the House of Lords earlier this month.
Though the picture of a car with a cowbell may be amusing, it is meant to address a serious issue – that of pedestrian safety. Lord McColl is also said to be concerned about the lack of engine noise from hybrid cars such as the Toyota Prius, which form a substantial part of the Government's ministerial fleet.
He commented that when purchasing one of these cars a few years ago his wife suggested the idea of a small Swiss cowbell. McColl said he was only speaking half in jest – as an owner of a Prius he said people can't always hear it coming and a little cowbell might do the trick.
Lord Grenfell, a Labour peer, proposed an even more radical solution suggesting a man with a red flag should walk in front of the car. The use of a man with a red flag ceased to be compulsory in 1896, when the speed limit was raised from four to 20mph.
Though that suggestion appears to be tongue in cheek, the Government is said to be examining the potential dangers to blind pedestrians in particular from electric and hybrid cars, but Lord Adonis stated that he does not believe either suggestion would work in 21st Century Britain.