Electric Rally Car Sounds Have Gotta Be Better Than This
The Opel Corsa-e Rally car has had some sound updates for 2022 and it’s not exactly for the better.
Saturday saw the running of the ELE Rally in the Netherlands, with organizers inviting e-Rally competitors to join the event for the first time. Spectators were treated to the sight of electric rally cars tearing their way through the stages as they battled for time. As capable as the cars looked on the dirt, the sound rather leaves something to be desired, as shared on YouTube by KMRallyvideos.
The event served as a "guest outing" for the ADAC Opal e-Rally Cup, an electric rally series now in its second year. Competitors in the series drive Opal Corsa-e Rally cars, with a single motor good for 136 horsepower and 191 lb-ft of torque driving the front wheels through a Torsen differential. The cars are intended as an affordable entry into electric rallying, with the original list price under €50,000 ($54,000 USD) when first announced in 2019.
The noise of the cars in the 2022 event is striking, to say the least. The low, buzzy wailing is reminiscent of a sick, rampaging robot from an 80s kids film. It's a sound that recalls dying batteries in a cassette Walkman. The bassy pitch doesn't do the sound any favors, creating a perception that the cars are lumbering around a lot slower than they really are.
It bears noting that this sound is the result of intentional development over and above what was heard on last year's Corsa-e Rally cars. Parent company Stellantis noted in a press release earlier this year that "the traction and sound of the Corsa-e Rally car underwent further development" for the 2022 season. The noise appears to be synthesized based on speed and throttle position, likely among other factors, and is pumped out via speakers mounted on the vehicle as per photos released by Stellantis.
It doesn't have to be this way, either. Formula E has already shown that it's possible to build electric race cars with a respectable, futuristic noise befitting of modern technology. While the cars are still orders of magnitude quieter than traditional race cars, the whine of motors and squeal of tires is often preferred by fans who pride authenticity over fake noise.
In fact, even last year's E-Rally Cup did far better. The 2021 cars featured a far less obvious sound from the cars; more of a distant whoosh rather than the overbearing noise heard this year. It may simply be that last year's cars had a lower volume output, but the sound of scattering pebbles and tyre roar is much preferred to the sad bleating robot noises.
Fixing the problem doesn't have to be hard, either. There's presumably a volume control somewhere in the system, and teams could be instructed to turn down the noise in the short term. In the longer term, a better synthesized noise can be created that's less hilariously grating for the spectators and drivers alike. Either go high and whooshy, or go full angry Dalek to scare the children. Or the system could be done away with entirely!
Don't get me wrong, electric motorsport is great. But here's hoping something changes, lest rally fans be left in fits of sad giggles as the e-Rally cars go by.
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