Page last updated at 11:01 GMT, Friday, 3 July 2009 12:01 UK

Japan rethinks silent hybrid cars

Toyota Motor Corp."s assembled new Prius rolls out at the Toyota Tsutsumi Plant in Toyota
Toyota has no plans yet to add noise-making devices to their hybrid cars

Japan is considering the introduction of noise-making devices for near-silent hybrid cars following safety fears from vision-impaired pedestrians.

"Vision-impaired people feel that hybrid vehicles are dangerous", a transport ministry official told AFP.

The top-selling hybrid vehicles run almost without any sound when they change from fuel to battery mode.

The ministry of transport has brought together a panel that will draw up a report by the end of the year.

The panel is considering forcing manufacturers of hybrid cars to introduce a sound-making function that alerts passersby to the presence of a vehicle.

"Blind people depend on sounds when they walk, but there are no engine sounds from hybrid vehicles when running at low speed," the transport ministry official said.

The world's most popular hybrid, the Prius, was launched by Toyota in 1997.

Paul Nolasco, a spokesman for Toyota Motor in Tokyo, told the BBC it had no immediate plans to add noise-making devices to the hybrid vehicles.

"But if it becomes a social concern, it is something we will have to address", Mr Nolasco added.

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