• Feb 16th 2010 at 8:00AM
  • 16
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]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      Long live the roar of the ICE!
      • 5 Years Ago
      Loud pipes save lives!
      • 5 Years Ago
      You really have to watch for those blind cyclists! They're a menace on the road, silent electric cars or not.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I want a cross between a giant RC car and an F1 car, preferrably with gears (yes, I know the challenge and contradiction with instant torque, but I love the sound of accel/decel through gears).
      • 5 Years Ago
      I still think the best choice for "creating" a sound for an electric car is to use a restrained-volume version of the Jetsons' car sound...
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm not so sure that EVs are a real danger to bicyclists. Most cyclists are hypervigilant when at intersections and look, don't listen, for cars. On the road, at 25mph and higher, an approaching car makes plenty of noise just from the tires on the road and aero so a cyclist can hear it approaching whether or not it has an ICE. Besides, I ride with a helmet mounted rear view mirror.

      My guess is the same folks concerned with dangers inherent in quiet cars, are also the ones that are gung-ho to replace intersections with traffic rotaries, ignoring the fact that rotaries are much more dangerous for the sight impaired, pedestrians and cyclists.
        • 5 Years Ago
        That's definitely not how it is here. There are very clear signs, crosswalks, and traffic lights (one campus intersection); they aren't there for no reason.

        I always yield to pedestrians, bicyclists, and skateboarders, whether they look or not; that's not my point. When I walk on campus (99% of the time), I'm very alert and aware of where every car on the road is, because I don't want some idiot texting on her phone to not see me and drive right over me. I just don't understand why everyone doesn't pay the same amount of attention to what's going on around them. It's one thing to trust others to follow the rules; it's another to ignore the fact that they might not.

        My last comment was a little unwarranted, I'll admit; I'm not really mean hearted.
        • 5 Years Ago

        Where I went to school, pedestrians ALWAYS had the right away. I think that's the norm on college campuses (at least isolated ones, not inner city ones obviously). Everything else we do on the road requires a certain amount of trust in other people following the rules. Why should these students not be able to do the same? Apparently, they are, and it's working. Your displeasure with their survival just shows you to be mean hearted.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I swear those Toyotas are running people over everywhere...WHEN WILL MADNESS END!
      • 5 Years Ago
      I thought this has already been covered...
      Noise cancellation for inside the car (many cars already have this), and some kind of "chime" sound system for pedestrians (like the Volt).

      The only thing about the Volt is that you have to manually flip a switch to turn the chime on - it should be automatic.
        • 5 Years Ago
        LOL @ chimes. Bicycle nostalgia anyone? ding ding
        • 5 Years Ago
        Chime is definitely the way to go, in my opinion. A lot of cars have laser cruise control mechanisms, some manufacturers are teasing pedestrian detection ... sounds like a perfect thing for a silent car: detect a nearby pedestrian or cyclist and begin emitting chiming noises.
        • 5 Years Ago
        This is complete bull sh!t, people will adapt and listen for "tire noise" and "look out" for cars when crossing a road. We don't need added noise.
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