A researcher at Renault said customers surveyed last year about what they want in an electric car responded, "silence, peace of mind and comfortable riding, a windy sound quality, a fluid driving experience like a skipper enjoying a sailboat." That sounds dreamy, until you realize how loud a car really is underneath all of the regular drivetrain noises we've come to expect from an ICE-powered ride. For instance, when we drove the Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe two years ago, we heard nothing – and that's absolutely nothing – of the world outside, but that meant we could hear the windshield wiper motors mounted on the bulkhead.
Electric cars are going to bring many more and much greater challenges than that, and engineers are beginning to discuss how to overcome them. The noise, vibration and harshness culprits in an electric vehicle include battery cooling systems, HVAC fans and ducts, coils for the power electronics, and switching on range-extending engines on vehicles so-equipped. These are the kinds of noises covered up easily by engine and other low-frequency noises, but in an electric car, they can make one feel strapped into a curious contraption.
Of course, there is also the question of what to do for others who depend on the sounds of cars, such as blind pedestrians and cyclists. Sound engineering is the most talked about approach right now, but no one knows what shape this will take. Lotus Engineering created a Safe & Sound system that used a waterproof speaker to emit an make engine noise – but wasn't part of the promise of electric cars meant to be quieter cities? It's all still to play for when it comes to the future of NVH, but please please, no ringtones...
[Source: Ward's Auto | Image: Lotus Engineering]