Carmakers dreaming up sounds for coming electric vehicles

Sound is emerging as a key aspect for emotions attached to electric vehicles. This is so since it is through sound that the potential customer can get feedback about the capability and potency of the car.

Senior executives at the Geneva car show have revealed, with combustion engines gradually being discontinued, carmakers are dreaming up of futuristic engine sounds for car engines that pedestrians can hear since electric cars are very silent in comparison to their gas guzzling peers.

With VW, BMW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, and Mini preparing to launch battery-driven vehicles, carmakers are dreaming up news ways to market the “potency of their zero-emissions vehicles”.

“The electric vehicle sound is its identity. It cannot be too intrusive or annoying. It has to be futuristic and it cannot sound like anything we had in the past. We cannot simply add the sound of a combustion engine,” said Frank Welsch, who is responsible for technical development at Volkswagen

He went on to add, VW’s electric cars will have speakers designed to draw the attention of pedestrians.

“Performance models need to have a more assertive sound, with more bass. It cannot be a high pitched din, like a sewing machine. It has to be futuristic,” he said. He went on to add, SUVs will have a deeper sound to reflect their bigger size.

While VW has already chosen the sound for its ID compact, scheduled to hit showrooms in 2020, it is however still tweaking tones for derivatives such as the dune buggy.

Mercedes-Benz has developed a humming noise for its new EQC model, that is loud enough to warm pedestrians but not disturb passengers.

“We want the car to be as quiet as possible from the interior, but there are rules for sound decibel levels for the exterior,” said Jochen Hermann, head of electric drive development at Mercedes-Benz.

“We picked an acoustic signal for the EQC about a year ago and made a choice between three different sounds,” said Hermann while adding, the sound had to be as refined as the Stuttgart-based carmarker’s combustion vehicles.

“Take the Mercedes-Benz S-Class 12-cylinder model. If that approaches you at 10 kilometers an hour you can also barely hear it, so we wanted a sound which also oozes refinement for the electric car,” said Hermann.

Taking a different route, Mercedes-AMG, a performance brand which takes pride in the loud exhaust notes from its eight and 12 cylinder combustion engines, wants its future electric cars to be heard loud and clear.

It is working with Linkin Park, an American rock band, to find a potent artificial sound for its electric cars, said the company’s CEO Tobias Moers.

As per Esther Bahne, Vice President Strategy and Innovation at BMW, the carmaker is also working on the sound of a new electric Mini.

“Sound is definitely something that will shape the car’s identity,” said Bahne.

The sound of the engine for its future models is more acute for sports car manufacturers, said Michael Pfadenhauer, head of acoustics at Porsche.

“There is no e-sound. It has to be invented. The sound transports the emotions of a vehicle. It gives you feedback about the potency and capability of the car,” said Pfadenhauer.

“At low speeds and revs it needs to enable comfortable driving. At higher speeds in sports mode, a more intense acoustic feedback is needed to make customers experience the potential of the vehicle,” explained Pfadenhauer.

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