Electric cars have a lot going for them, but pedestrians sometimes fear them for their lack of noise. If you're crossing the street, and an EV is coming at you, chances are you won't hear it coming. Automakers have responded by installing noisemakers (some incredibly cool), including Toyota, which just unveiled one for its popular Prius. One problem: it's optional.
The device, to be rolled out in Japan starting August 30, is essentially a speaker under the hood that emits a sound similar to a gas-powered car relative to the speed of the vehicle — up to speeds of 15 mph. It's said to "alert but not annoy." But drivers of the third-generation Prius will need to shell out $150 for the privilege of doing either.
I don't know what Toyota's thinking here. It's hard to imagine anyone buying a car and thinking they should shell out an extra $150 for the improved safety of passers-by. It couldn't hurt to have, but when you consider that data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows there haven't been any more pedestrian fatalities in the years since hybrids were introduced, it's hard to justify the expense.