As regulations encourage wider adoption of electric cars and more OEMs get into their electric-car stride, we're getting a better idea of what the synthetic tones we'll be hearing on our electrified streets. Not only will it be unlike anything we've ever heard, it could get pretty raucous according to a Bloomberg article that surveys the sound engineers creating the notes sung by electric cars.

Daimler has 250 people in its powertrain acoustics department who are most used to finessing the din of an internal combustion engine. Lately they've been on the other side, creating tones like the "sonorous purring" for the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive, the "huskier" whine of the SLS AMG Electric Drive and the sci-fi movie whirring of the B-Class Electric Drive. The Nissan Leaf makes its own sound, the Tesla Model S makes no manufactured sound, and the Renault Zoë offers three sounds. Neither Volkswagen nor BMW, however, will install sounds on their electric offerings unless required.

Authorities around the world are preparing regulations that will force electric cars to produce some kind of warning note to pedestrians and cyclists - an expert with a German organization for the visually impaired actually spoke for all pedestrians and street users not in cars when he said, putting it midly, "What is important for us is that we don't get killed in traffic." Automakers are therefore looking for ways to create notes that resonate with the driver and that can make their offering as distinct as the water-cooled six cylinder in a Porsche 911, and owners are already thinking about what kinds of tunes they want their car to emit. For a sample, you can check out the three notes offered by the Zoë in the video below.



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  • 16 Comments
      Ele Truk
      • 11 Months Ago
      On hotter days, when all the cooling fans are running, my Ford Ranger EV is actually louder than the equivalent 4 or 6 cylinder Ford Ranger idling. But most of the time, all you hear is the "mooing" of the vacuum pump or the whine of the power steering pump. It still is plenty loud for those around it. Newer EVs these days are way more quiet, and I feel that the noisemakers are almost pointless. The Nissan Leaf is so quiet that still can't hear it in a typical parking lot (coincidentally the backup alarm comes out of the front of the car where the noisemaker is).
      Koenigsegg
      • 11 Months Ago
      i disconnected the sound box on my smart ED, now my car is almost completely silent except for the battery wine which sounds like a spaceship, which sounds cool.
        SloopJohnB
        • 11 Months Ago
        @Koenigsegg
        Batteries wine? What vintage? Cooling fan whine?
          carfan
          • 11 Months Ago
          @SloopJohnB
          when I accelerate my Tesla from 0-60 in less than 5 secs...yes, the motor has this beautiful whining sound, Nothing more beautiful than that sound!
        Jesse Gurr
        • 11 Months Ago
        @Koenigsegg
        Electric motor whine, you meant, i think. Batteries only make noise when they explode.
        DarylMc
        • 11 Months Ago
        @Koenigsegg
        Hi Tesla Fan The article claims that Daimler has 250 people working on the noise profile of their EV's. Presumably in the interest of safety. I think it is a real shame that you found it so offensive that you had to disconnect it. Think of the position you will be putting yourself into if you injure a pedestrian after disabling the sound. Even if it's no fault of your own or the sound would not have helped, it could cause you some real trouble.
      jeff
      • 11 Months Ago
      All cars already have this, it is called a Horn....
        SloopJohnB
        • 11 Months Ago
        @jeff
        Love it! Makes people jump and give you the finger, too.
        Ele Truk
        • 11 Months Ago
        @jeff
        How annoying would this be? The National Federation for the Blind and the Chevy Volt (video). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F9lRDkUUuf4
          MTN RANGER
          • 11 Months Ago
          @Ele Truk
          My pedestrian alert still seems to startle people. It should should a little less like a horn.
      d_matter7
      • 11 Months Ago
      These sound systems are such a nonsense, like u can hear expensive cars like MB S-class or BMW 5 series engine sounds when they are going at light throttle, even at full throttle they are very quiet.
      danfred311
      • 11 Months Ago
      Ah sound as in audio. I thought they were proposing an EV strategy of sound mind and I thought, hey that's unrealistic for someone as unintelligent as Mercedes. But adding noise to an EV, that sounds predictably stupid for an automaker. And what's important for the blind people is that they pipe the f down. I know it sucks to be blind but the number of blind people navigating traffic is spectacularly few and you simply can't rely on navigating traffic safely when blind under any circumstance anyway so please stfu about stupid burdens for EVs. A blind person could wear a high visibility jacket and even blinking lights. And they could have a little paddle with blinking lights on they could stick out ahead of them to signal to drivers that a blind person is about to walk into traffic. Also it should be quite possible to make computer systems today such that blind people can get the necessary visual data fed to them with a body west or other touch/audio data. Indeed it could recognize cars and add sound to them for the blind.
      Neil Blanchard
      • 11 Months Ago
      So, when they quiet an ICE that is a good thing. But when an EV is quieter than an ICE, now we need cars to be noisy? Tires are the loudest thing on many cars. Last I looked, EV's have tires, too.
      KaBoomBOX
      • 11 Months Ago
      They should all be required by law to make the sound of the Jetson's flying car. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=QdWswvLPdE0&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DQdWswvLPdE0
      SloopJohnB
      • 11 Months Ago
      Funny thing will be the ability to sound off (pun intended) with a variety of engine noises, including the flat-six Porsche and even bicycle playing card affixed by clothespin to bicycle flapping against spokes. NOw THAT would be a cool sound for an electric car!
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