• Nov 3, 2010
Audi e-tron concept – Click above for high-res image gallery

When cruising at 15.53 miles per hour or slower, an electric car runs virtually silent. Once over that speed, road noise and air moving over the car begin to become prevalent and the car can be "heard" as it travels down the road. That silent running is an intriguing part of the electric car world, but it's problematic, mostly because those speeds are generally reserved for traffic-clogged cities, parking lots and other areas where pedestrian foot traffic meets automotive. If you are hard of hearing, you might not know that an electric car is heading your way as you step out into the street. Audi is working to prevent this, by incorporating an exterior sound system into its e-tron.

A team of acousticians is hard at work behind Ingolstadt's closed doors. Their goal is to develop a sound that reflects the brand's core values. But what does Audi sound like?

According to Christian Schüller, Head of Brand Development/Corporate Identity:
"The obvious approach would be to work on the basis of the familiar sound of a combustion engine. On the other hand, we want to underscore that an electric or hybrid Audi is an innovative product. We also want to make our Vorsprung durch Technik audible in the era of electric mobility."
Dr. Ralf Kunkel, Head of Acoustics at Audi AG, has a different idea:
"The sounds used for space ships in films are reminiscent of car sounds, yet are also very different, making this a rather interesting approach."
Kunkel goes on to say that, although it's unlikely we will see Audis that sound like jets or spaceships, we will hear something unique and "distinctively Audi." He says to picture the Audi RSQ from the film I, Robot and we should get a good idea of what to expect. Follow the jump for the official press blast.



[Source: Audi]

Show full PR text
The sound of silence: How Audi is working on the acoustics of future electric cars
  • Electric cars are virtually silent at speeds up to 25 km/h (15.53 mph)
  • Acousticians working intensely on future sound design
  • Sound should reflect brand's core values

Ingolstadt, November 2, 2010 – The sonorous sound of a six-cylinder engine; the silky murmur of a V8: the sounds of combustion engines are a constant of road traffic that everyone can associate with a car. With electric cars all that is passé because they are virtually silent up to a speed of 25 km/h (15.53 mph ). The risk to others is obvious. There is only one logical conclusion for the sound technicians at Aud i: The electric car of the future needs its own sound – but which one?

"We speak of quiet cars when an electric car is driven at a speed between 0 – 25 km/h (15.53 mph)," explains Dr. Ralf Kunkel, Head of Acoustics at AUDI AG. Up to this speed electric cars are virtually silent as they glide through the streets. Noise from the rolling of the tires and from the slipstream comes to the forefront above this speed, at which point an electric car is no longer significantly more quiet than a conventional vehicle.

The fact that this new form of transportation is particularly quiet is, of course, another factor of its success. After all, environment-friendly automobiles should not only reduce emissions, but also noise pollution. However, speed without the typical road noises that serve as a signal harbors risks: The sense of hearing allows participants in traffic to monitor all 360 degrees of their surroundings, whereas the eyes only cover a limited angle. People with poorer vision or who are distracted can easily overlook a car.

Organizations for the blind worldwide therefore advocate giving quiet cars a unique sound; specifications or laws to this effect are already in place in the U.S.A. and Japan.

The sound technicians at Audi have long since taken up the task of protecting pedestrians in the electric mobility era. "One way do this is by generating artificial noise in electric cars," says Kunkel. The acousticians are currently hard at work on the sound 1/2 design of the Audi e-tron. It is not just a matter of safety, but also a question of how the Audi of the future should sound.

"The obvious approach would be to work on the basis of the familiar sound of a combustion engine," says Christian Schüller, Head of Brand Development/Corporate Identity. "On the other hand, we want to underscore that an electric or hybrid Audi is an innovative product. We also want to make our Vorsprung durch Technik audible in the era of electric mobility."

The rustling of leaves, the twittering of birds or shrill tones such as those used on snow cats are therefore not viable options. However: "The sounds used for space ships in films are reminiscent of car sounds, yet are also very different, making this a rather interesting approach," says Kunkel. An Audi will not sound like an airplane with jet engines or a space ship from a science fiction film any time soon, though. "But the sound will be new and unusual. The Audi RSQ from the Hollywood film I, Robot gives an indication of how an Audi might sound in the future."


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 32 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      1) Agreed, it will be hacked, and it will get really annoying.
      2) I also like the scanner-sound from KITT, if I had to choose.
      3) Can I shoot rubber bands at pedestrians and have the car go, "pew, pew, pew!"?
      • 4 Years Ago
      I like the car itself but what's with those wheels? If they were gold they would look like they were stolen right off of Huggy Bear's Cadillac.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I vote for the sound that the Jetsons' car/ship made but I like the suggestion that it could be changed by the driver at their whim, too!

      One day my car will sound like a space ship. The next, a sports car with a high strung V8. The day after that, it could sound like the Jolly Green Giant...if only the engineers could make the ground shake like the actual thing! If I'm in a humorous mood, maybe it would sound like an Infiniti or Chewbacca farting...not sure there's any difference. The options are endless!

      Vorsprung durch Technik!!
      Kumail
      • 4 Years Ago
      I think I can live with this. Downloadable sounds would be awesome too.
      • 4 Years Ago
      This all seems overblown to me... most new cars are whisper quiet and the sound you do hear are the tires moving across different surfaces.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Did you even bother to read the first paragraph, or did you just read the title and instantly jump in here to complain?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Yes, many combustion engines are quiet now, but if you've ever seen a Prius in a parking lot, they're even quieter.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Exactly...whatever happened to looking both ways before you cross the street anyways? I would think noises on electric cars are more for the blind than the hard of hearing
        • 4 Years Ago
        I know, ajeezy!

        Stupid blind people not looking both ways before they cross the street. What's wrong with them?
        • 4 Years Ago
        You would be surprised what you hear but don't consciously register. Paying attention to your surroundings includes your hearing. If you can't hear something coming up on you, you're not inclined to look towards it. Not to mention, I personally don't feel like looking around like a damn radar when I'm crossing a parking lot.

        What's the big deal anyway? EVERY movie depicting the future of cars, the cars had some sort of cool sound.
        • 4 Years Ago
        No, most cars are far from being "whisper quiet" when compared to an EV.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @ajeezy

        I am not trying to be a jerk here, but I totally agree - whatever happened to paying attention to your surroundings? Sure, the sound is another sensation to help you recognize an electric cars presence but when would you ever not look before walking across a road or parking lot (unless you are blind)? Quiet/silent operation at low speed is a luxury afforded to electric automobiles and I really hope it isn't mucked up by some speakers on the front of the car.
      • 4 Years Ago
      ALL this time I was thinking it was 15.54 MPH when the car went silent...

      DARN!!!! God I hate my ignorants...


      • 4 Years Ago
      Can I have mine sound like a 4.2 TFSI V8?
      • 4 Years Ago
      I do not want a Toyota EV/hybrid that sounds like a spaceship.

      However, I would take an Audi E-tron that sounds like a spaceship.
      IamXD
      • 4 Years Ago
      Seriously this has to stop. Everyone will always complain about everything. One day the noise will be offensive to dogs or something and have to be changed again.

      EVs have the potential to make our urban areas quiet and much more peaceful places to live and we are going to fill them up with deliberate noise pollution.

      Maybe the coal industry would like to complain that we aren't using enough and we could install a small coal stove in the back of the EV to belch out the appropriate amount of pollution.

      One of the great unexpected side benefits of moving to EVs is about to chopped down.

      Very sad...
        • 4 Years Ago
        @IamXD
        "One of the great unexpected side benefits of moving to EVs is about to chopped down."

        About? The first production ready electric car for mass consumption already has it, it was about to be chopped down a year ago
        • 4 Years Ago
        @IamXD
        "One of the great unexpected side benefits of moving to EVs is about to chopped down."

        About? The first production ready electric car for mass consumption already has it, it was about to be chopped down a year ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      How about the Hanna-Barbera Jetsons bubble car sound?
      • 4 Years Ago

      While Audi is adding back noise pollution to aid the visually impaired they may as well add in an oil based smoke machine that constantly pumps vile, putrid, black, billowing smoke out of the back of the car.....again to aid anyone that may be confused by this new E-tron technology.

      Heaven forbid the cars of the future become too clean and too sanitary for our sensory deprived fellow humans ! Shame on us.
      • 4 Years Ago
    • Load More Comments