electric and hybrid cars...the sounds of power.

Electirc and hybrids are going to be a bigger part of our lives over the next 40 years or so, hydrogen does burn just fine in IC motors but they will in time become less common. That given, is the whine and woosh of a juice wagon going to replace the primal sounds we know? If you think about it the sounds of a big V8 are much like the bellowing of a large herbivore, with the shriek of a V10/12 like a big cats scream. The burbble of any finely tuned engine at idle is so close to the purring of a cat as to be well un canny. Many car companies spend millions and millions on the sounds a auto makes, something that seem to resonate from our hunter gatherer past.

The humm or whine of a electic, seems so “steril” in compaison, but the idea of using speakers to pump out recorded grunting of large cat’s or herbivors is too laughable to consider. What is the answer, or will slience be our future with the audio echo’s of our pasts only be experianced in zoo’s and on mp’3 of the savana.

just musing over coffee…

i want my electric car to sound like a giant hydroelectric turbine spooling up.

Perhaps there are advances to be made in electric motor technology to produce a more pleasing “exhaust note”

Maybe there is a way to pipe that noise out of a muffler that is tuned to a pleasing pitch. My guess is you would get high pitched Italian whine instead of a throaty Vette V8 or similar.

I’ll certainly miss that beautiful noise of a Ferrari flying past me at break neck speed, making my ear drums bleed from the scream of the engine. Man, gives me goosebumps just thinking about those cars.

I think we should just let it be what it is. Let sound follow function.

Two thoughts:

  1. Impact on pedestrians. They can’t hear an electric car coming. In fact, I’ve nearly been struck by electric vehicles in the past.

In the early days of motoring, some traffic codes required a person to walk .25 mile in front of the car in order to warn horse riders & carriages of the approaching commotion. Maybe we will need something similar in the electric age.

  1. Impact on passengers. Looking at how most vehicles sold are tuned to be silent (Lexus had a whole marketing campaign based on it), many people will accept a silent motor. For those of us who still care, I think artificial noise may be our only hope.

I understand why some may be against it, but there are already artificial stimulus out there designed to aid old-skoolers like us into the new tech. For example, look at all the CVT transmission cars that have “speeds”. Some even try to market it in traditional ways, “The new 7 speed CVT from…”. CVT have no gears, they can be programed to have 2 speeds or 100 speeds. But…some prefer it this way.

Not sure if it stumbled across this on these boards or elsewhere, but a couple of weeks ago I read an interesting piece on how the auto regulators are growing increasingly concerned with the lack of audible noise from electric/hybrid models and the possible safety concerns a silent car creates for the blind, children or just the absent minded!

I’m inclined to agree with Yo, let the sound of the car be genuine and representative of the machinery inside… though as Zip said there is something very carnally seductive about the sound of a gas engine.

LOL "new for 2021 audio tuning, your choice of 287 down loadable external driving sounds, from cards in your spokes to vintage ferrari. Special option package “rawhide” with dolby 9.1 hoves sounds and whip cracks.

I think chrysler made a jet turbine car in the 60’s, and darnit zip you beat me to the card in the spokes joke.

I’m not sure if this was just because of it age, but my old electric train engine, a lionel from the early fifties, made quite a bit of noise from its electric moter.

That is part of the experience, and we all know successful designers don’t design products, but experiences. By friends dad had a 71 chevelle, and that car was definately an experience. styling, engine sound, vibration, smell of the exhaust and leather etc. Even the lexus has some sound when you hit it. I think youll be able to feel the power once we get some real electric motors running, but I think creating that whole experience will expedite the process. If you can afford anything and are a complete a–hole and don’t care about anything what will you buy? the coolest, baddest car around that what. If that car was electric thats what you would get, and then thats what everyone else would want. thats the way “good design” will solve this

ferraris get a lot of their unique sound from a flat plane crankshaft design, which allows for some ‘unique’ engine dynamics.

I remember the high end trains had “sounds of power” where they made puff puff noises like a steam loco, the diesles had a noise too. The bad assesed juice hog car 0-60 in 3 sec, 500hp awd with super capacitors for max boost and a external audio file running the sound of a stampeading herd of … (fill in the blank) my vote is for lemmings, russtling feet and high pitched squeeks:lol:

ha ha no really though it may have been the bearing wearing out. like when a box fan starts to go. Sounds of Power and other train noises actually come from the coal tender on most model locomotives. Therefore, much like a chevy beretta the electric car will sound more and more “bad-ass” as it enters its death throws.

What if the car noise to alert pedestrians came from the tires, like when you drive a jeep with huge knobby tires on it and its too loud to talk to your buddy or hear your girlfriends COMPLAIN about how windy it is in the back of a jeep with no top. Maybe I should get some of those for the jetta…

No extraneous noise please.

Those same people who would be hit by a silent car would also be hit by a bicycle, or possibly even an immobile utility pole. Didn’t the insurance industry say that just about all pedestrian strikes involved some kind of impairment, either on the part of the driver or the pedestrian. We’ve all heard of the guy with the cellphone/iPod who stepped onto the street only to be mowed down. I’m sure most of us have had to suppress a little road rage at the driver on a cellphone. And then of course, one or both could be truly impaired with drugs, alcohol, cough medicine, etc. And let’s not pick on the blind… the fact is, there are very few reports of the sight-impaired being hit, even by bikes. Noise may only serve to mask the actual collision. In a world where all vehicles made little or no noise, any contact between a vehicle and any other object would be quite obvious.

And then, there is the question of efficiency. Anything that makes noise uses energy to make it. Compare road bike tires to that of a mountain bike. Smooth is silent. Smooth moves. Even an artificially induced sound requires energy, which would be sorely lacking in an electric vehicle using today’s power sources. Add to that the energy costs of an comfortable interior temperature and you have to ask if adding the sound is worth it. The energy has to come from somewhere and unless the original source is pure solar, there is a environmental and delivery cost.

But, to add to the discourse about what constitutes an appropriate sound: What I fail to see mentioned in any of the usual literature is the relationship between our perception of vs. the physical characteristics of sound, specifically re: loudness and tonal frequency. (There will be articles on psycho-acoustics at the Audio Engineering Society but these are not widely available to industry outsiders.)

We may all believe we’ve learned to distinguish the low rumble of a muscle car, but I argue that is just instinct. The bigger animals tend to have deeper voices and it is no coincidence that they are also generally more dangerous to humans. But extrapolating baritone sounds to equate to power doesn’t do justice to the high pitch of an F1 engine. Ask yourself, would the opening sequence of Star Wars have been as powerful if the ship had slid by silently in a more realistic portrayal?


It probably goes without saying that I’ve been a big fan of electric cars since 2001. That’s when I first saw of the Tango (a narrow-lane electric vehicle) in an issue of Popular Science. That glance was love at first sight and I envisioned cities the world over embracing this wonderful radical new car that sought to reduce our dependence on fossil fuel as well as reduce congestion on our roadways.

As it is electric, the issue of what it sounded like was addressed with a conceptual software package called Haiku 2.0 which would give Tango owners the option of creating their own custom exhaust note.

Diesels, turbos, nitrous, air-cooled Beetles, Harleys…they all have a distinctive sound. The fact that a car is silent is much like having a blank canvas.

This software would allow you to combine different sounds from a variety of formats (i.e.: .wav,mp3).

The end result? An exhaust note with a voice as unique as your own.

Further, as sound is energy, a separate storage system would be used to emanate these sounds.

And if pedestrians cross the road without looking both ways, the Tango is equipped with brakes. Since it is narrow, would probably do a better job of missing its target than say a louder wider car.


This scares me.

Think of all the annoying cell phone ringers out there. Do we really want vehicles driving around blasting the latest Brittany Spears tune, or any wacky sound the driver wants to transmit?

ever heard a big cat “sream” in person…f-1 at its finest.

LOL…well, what I was really imagining was the scene out of Star Wars’ Episode I: The Phantom Menace with the pod racers (i doubt seriously i.d.ers won’t ever reference Star Wars anything). They all sounded unique for something that’s never existed before.

But you are pretty correct in assuming someones going to get annoyed by the sound of someone elses car. That happens now when I blast “F*ck the Police” in front of the Pope or “Achy Breaky Heart” anytime. Car stereos have caused hearing loss in the name of pedestrian safety.

The real question is this: Which would pose a larger threat?

A.) An internal-combustion powered car driving towards you, muffler removed from exhaust system but dragging and banging on the ground

B.) An electric car driving towards you blasting “Soda Pop” (it’s a Br1tney Spears song)

C.) The whine of an electric car’s motor driving towards you

But there is also the issue of noise pollution: Roadway noise - Wikipedia

Electric cars easily address this issue. They won’t significantly contribute to noise pollution but then exceed a threshold of being too quiet? Hospital zones would welcome them but then people jogging tuned into their iPods or talking on their cellphones would challenge their existence.

It doesn’t really matter though. Electric cars which can be “topped off” with sunlight, wind AND water power will have a place where crude oil exceeds $120 a barrel no matter what they sound like.

That’s what I like to hear.

easy solution, with 4/5/1000 watt bass amps being the norm the “boomers” will be heard a 1/2 block away in any event.

The whole “silent hybrids are mowing down blind people” is either contrarian FUD, or a clever industry-driven scheme to cripple the hybrid/electric market by forcing them to emit annoying sounds. Exactly how many blind people have been hospitalized by Priuses? Anyone got an actual number?

Most of the driveby noise from a car comes from the tires. And engine noise is much, much lower at the front of a car headed towards you than it is at the back of a car headed away from you (because most of the sound comes from the exhaust). You can verify the latter assertion by standing at the side of any road. Also, by the time they get to a speed where they would be capable of seriously injuring a pedestrian, all current hybrids have switched to IC engine power. The whole thing is bollocks.

I think anything to detract from the sound of the tires, the wind over the car, or the peace everyone deserves is idiocy best served hot so it can scold you into reality.

traffic noise is a pig. anyone who lives near a main road and is a light sleeper will testify this. I dont object to anything which is above 50 decebels, mainly because stupid people do need some sort of warning (i longboard everywhere and frankly you need to shout at people not looking where they are walking so you dont hit them) so they dont walk into the road.

i believe some electric motors do have a beefy sound, overcharged scalectric cars for instance, high torque motors have a good sound. im sure at higher rpm everything will give you that uphm people are so looking for.

i was 11 or 12 when i saw my first f1 race. we were on the pedestrian bridge over the track when one of the cars sped underneath at full speed. the sensory overload of that has kept me hooked since. the sounds and the concussions of the air i remember vivdly.