What Should EVs Sound Like?
Electric vehicles can't growl like a Hellcat, but maybe a high-pitched whine isn't the only alternative.
Electric vehicles have a distinctive whine that I’d liken to a spaceship. That is, it's what I imagine a futuristic vehicle would sound like if I were living with the Jetsons, the cartoon family living in a world of flying cars roughly 40 years from now. Veer off on this side road with me for a moment, because you may not know that The Jetsons show ran just one season (I was astonished to learn this today). That's correct: only 24 original episodes back in the early 60s and you'll still see references of the iconic show that represented some attainable version of the future.
Anyway, in 2021 EVs are required by law to emit some kind of sound that provides an audible warning to pedestrians. It seems, however, that many automakers tuned into the same frequency and came up with a sound that is part electric scooter and part futuristic beatbox. I wondered: are we all destined to all hear one static note if electric vehicles take over? Surely there are better ideas out there.
Let’s get creative, because–and hear me out–automakers could embrace a much wider set of sounds to warn pedestrians of approaching vehicles. I mean, what if a new Toyota bZ4X could fly down the road making Pac-Man’s wakka wakka wakka sound effect? Or how about an Audi e-tron that generates the low bass beat from the Knight Rider theme song?
Certainly, EV sounds should ring a bell of familiarity in the human brain for the sake of safety. It could be ridiculously chaotic if the driver could choose from a menu of 50 different sounds as you can for your cell phone ring. Then again, if you're an enthusiast, every engine sounds like music and has a soundtrack of its own. The roaring V12 of an Aston Martin DBS sounds much different from the 6.2-liter V8 of a new Corvette and unlike the quiet efficiency of a 2021 Honda Accord.
Earlier this year, The Drive asked you how you feel about fake piped-in engine sounds. I agree with one reader who said we’d all be better served with the artificial noises on the outside, leaving a quiet cabin. Replicating the roar of an internal combustion engine inside the speakers of an EV seems like an anachronistic combination, so coming up with something unique is key.
What do you think about EV sounds?
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