Electric vehicle can't be silent. So says the U.S. House and Senate and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ( NHTSA). To please the powers-that-be in Washington, D.C., Ford turned to Facebook with hopes of gauging public opinion on what sound is most fitting for its upcoming Focus Electric. And boy, did Ford get quite a reaction.
Nearly 300 fans of Ford's Electric Vehicles Facebook page ranked and commented on four proposed sounds for the electric Focus. Some fans even left oddball suggestions for sounds. In addition, nearly 3,400 Ford employees chimed in with their opinion when the poll was featured on the automaker's intranet site.
The next step is for Ford engineers to test the sounds to determine how recognizable and detectable they are, even taking into consideration that the sound needs to be audible to people with limited hearing. Click here to listen to the four Focus Electric sounds one more time.
Ford reached out to fans of its Electric Vehicles Facebook page to see what their preferred sound would be for the new Focus Electric, with nearly 300 respondents ranking four sounds.
Fans also shared their opinions on the sounds, as well as their thoughts about customizing different sounds to meet customer needs
Nearly 3,400 Ford employees also chimed in with their opinion when the poll was recently featured on the company intranet site
Ford engineers also are testing the sounds to determine how recognizable and detectable they are, even taking into consideration that the sound needs to stay in that part of the spectrum that people will remain sensitive to all their lives
DEARBORN, Mich., July 25, 2011 – Whether it's a throaty rumble, futuristic ringing or something soft and soothing, customers have distinct ideas of what they want their electric vehicle to sound like. Ford tapped into that thinking with a Facebook poll that has delivered a passionate reaction from enthusiasts.
The poll, conducted on the Ford Electric Vehicles (EV) Facebook page, allowed fans to interact with Ford EV team members and provide direct feedback that can be used to impact the final product. In doing so, nearly 300 fans ranked the sounds, while 400 posted comments.
"The poll tells us two things: Without a question, people are interested in the future of electric vehicles, and they want to be heard," said Scott Monty, Ford digital and multimedia communications manager. "Consistent with our overall approach to social media, we've given customers a chance to have a voice and we've gone the extra step of acknowledging their input and building it into our business process."
The Ford Electric Vehicles page for Facebook is part of Ford's regular ongoing interaction with customers. It was developed to help customers understand the differences between electrified vehicle technologies so they can make informed decisions about whether a hybrid, plug-in hybrid or all-electric vehicle best fits their driving habits.
The page also creates a place where customers can initiate and participate in conversations around Ford's electrified vehicle offerings, and it gives Ford a forum to respond to customers who are interested in electrified vehicles.
Check out the responses for the four sounds here.
Finding a tune that works
Ford engineers are performing a variety of tests on potential sounds to ensure they meet all criteria. Testing includes analyzing the frequency spectrum for recognizability and detectability, as well as subjective evaluations with different groups (visually impaired pedestrians, vehicle purchasers, etc).
Engineers also have developed a vehicle that emits the potential sounds. When driven around a parking lot, engineers evaluate the sounds just as a pedestrian would. Because the sound is only intended to be heard from outside the vehicle, pedestrians are the primary concern.
"We're trying to find a distinct sound that's pleasing to customers and alerts them of an on-coming vehicle," said Dave McCreadie, Noise/Vibration Supervisor for Hybrid and Electric Vehicles. "This sound needs to be something that can be integrated into a person's sound spectrum so they can immediately recognize the noise and associate it with an EV approaching the rest of their lives – just like we do with emergency vehicle sirens."
Ford is working with Oracle Post-Production/Unity Studio to leverage its sound mixing expertise and state-of-the-art sound production capabilities to create, mix and optimize different audio elements for electric vehicle sound.
Ford employees also sounded off when given the chance to comment on EV sounds. An employee poll was recently featured on the Ford intranet site, with nearly 3,400 employees sharing their opinion in just a couple of days.
Ford regularly asks its employees for opinions on a variety of topics ranging from product to driving-behavior questions. The EV sounds poll was one of the more popular surveys.
The power of choice
Electrification is an important piece of Ford's overall product sustainability strategy, which includes the launch of five electrified vehicles in North America by 2012 and in Europe by 2013. Ford launched the Transit Connect Electric small commercial van in 2010 and will launch the all-new Focus Electric later this year. In 2012, these models will be joined in North America by the new C-MAX Hybrid, a second next-generation lithium-ion battery hybrid and C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid. This diverse range of electrified vehicles allows Ford to meet a variety of customer driving needs.
About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 166,000 employees and about 70 plants worldwide, the company's automotive brands include Ford and Lincoln. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford's products, please visit www.ford.com