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Electric cars trigger new sound design concepts

Human impacts, News, Vehicles Add comments

In the best overview I’ve yet seen of efforts to solve the “problem” of electric cars being so quiet, the New York Times Wheels blog provides a tour of the the apparently burgeoning of field sound design for these future (and increasingly, present-day) vehicles.  Most designs plan to incorporate sounds that will alert nearby pedestrians of a car nearby, but will only emit sound when the car is slow-moving (above 12 or 15 mph, tire noise will be sufficient).

A speaker embedded in the bumper of a Fisker Karma (click to link to blog post)

A speaker embedded in the bumper of a Fisker Karma (click to read NY Times blog post)

Among the key questions is whether electric car owners will be able to customize their car’s “voice,” ala cell phone ring tones, or if they should be standardized.  So far, individual auto companies are each pursuing their own standard sounds, which could presumably become part of the “look and feel” of the car’s branding.  A Nissan engineer quoted in a September article from Bloomberg,  says that “we decided that if we’re going to do this, if we have to make sound, then we’re going to make it beautiful and futuristic.” The company decided on a high- pitched sound reminiscent of the flying cars in “Blade Runner,” the 1982 Ridley Scott film. “We wanted something a bit different, something closer to the world of art,” said the Nissan designer.  At least one acoustic design company has turned its attention to becoming the “go to” company for automakers facing this 21st century problem.  The Times blog and its accompanying article are both great reads on this fascinating – and for some anti-noise activists, frustrating – topic.

One Response to “Electric cars trigger new sound design concepts”

  1. » Blog Archive » Obama signs bill that will lead to “warning noise” requirement for electric cars Says:

    […] a look at some sound design concepts for electric vehicles, see this AEINews post from about a year ago. addthis_url = ‘’; addthis_title = […]