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Supercars may stall on tighter noise limits

Dealer says possible step-up of noise checks by the National Environment Agency over a car's lifetime will unfairly target high-performance cars

A hypercar such as the Pagani Huayra, which has quad tailpipes, may not pass later noise level checks if a rule requiring cars to not exceed 5 dB(A) of its original stationary noise level during homologation is imposed.


SUPERCAR owners appear to be in the cross hairs of the National Environment Agency (NEA), and their cars' rumbling exhaust could be silenced if measures to curb noise pollution are enforced in two years' time.

The NEA recently met authorised car distributors for what was described as a "purely exploratory discussion" of their model's stationary noise levels.

Apparently, the authorities are interested to know if any of the imported vehicles can meet the stationary noise limit of 96 decibels or dB(A) and, if so, how many of the lot?

If the car, taxi or station wagon in question is rear-engined, then the limit is 100 dB(A).

The dB(A) value refers to the A-weighted decibel and measures the relative loudness of sound perceived by the human ear, which is less sensitive to low audio frequencies.

The noise levels of goods vehicles below or above three and a half tons are also under scrutiny and like the cars, will be tested according to European Union directives or Japanese regulations.

Currently, the homologation process for new cars already includes an NEA query about its "sound level".

As far as European makes are concerned, most volume models adhere to an EU directive with a limiting value of 74 dB(A). This means family sedans and small hatchbacks can easily meet the NEA's proposed benchmark.

So will mid-engined supercars from Ferrari or Lamborghini with a factory-fitted exhaust, which typically range from 90 to 90-plus dB(A).

But what is potentially troublesome for owners of these super sports cars is the tighter monitoring of an "in-use" vehicle's noise emissions.

Checks on a car's noise level over its lifespan will be stepped up although there is some allowance for noise deterioration. To pass an inspection, its noise level cannot exceed five dB(A) of its original stationary noise level when it was homologated.

Every two years from age three onwards, cars in Singapore have to undergo a vehicle inspection process.

So if a new car was registered with a stationary noise limit of 85 dB(A) during type approval, for example, it cannot have a noise level of more than 90 dB(A) when it turns up at a Vicom or STA inspection centre three, five or seven years later.

A September 2017 implementation date is understood to have been mentioned.

Said the managing director of a European dealership: "I know NEA's mission is to curb pollution, both air and noise, but there is no way a nine-year-old car will sound the same as a brand new one. How can you expect a car to remain quiet with wear and tear? There is sure to be some rattling here and there."

He finds it "ridiculous" that the in-use noise screening will unfairly target supercars.

"Supercars are rarely used. They do not cause excessive noise or traffic jams. So why are you picking on the minority? Buses, trains and Malaysian lorries are noisier, and there are a lot more of these on the road than supercars."

And even if an "ordinary" in-use supercar such as an Aston Martin, Ferrari, Lamborghini or McLaren manages to scrape through a vehicle inspection, a hypercar with quad tailpipes such as the Pagani Huayra may not.

Periodic noise screening tests also mean that supercar owners will not be able to buy and install after-market exhaust systems, which are not always noise-certified.

The managing director said: "All this will only discourage the rich from buying supercars. It is even worse than a wealth tax. I suppose the authorities would prefer that everyone just drive small and noiseless cars like the Prius hybrid."