Making Electric Cars Louder

By Daniel Indiviglio

Generally noisy cars are considered a bad thing, but some believe cars that are too quiet could be even worse. With electric cars poised to sweep the nation in the years to come, this problem may become a real one: virtually silent electric engines provide no auditory warning to pedestrians. This is a particularly serious problem for blind pedestrians who cannot rely on looking both ways. Bloomberg reports that Nissan is consequently taking measures to make its electric cars louder.

From Bloomberg:

"We fought for so long to get rid of that noisy engine sound," said Tabata, Nissan's noise and vibration expert. With electric cars, "we took a completely different approach and listened to composers talk music theory."

So just what might these electric cars sound like?

"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," Tabata said.

The company consulted Japanese composers of film scores. What Tabata and his six-member team came up with is a high- pitched sound reminiscent of the flying cars in "Blade Runner," the 1982 film directed by Ridley Scott portraying his dystopian vision of 2019.

"We wanted something a bit different, something closer to the world of art," Tabata said.

Or instead of "noise," they could choose something closer to song. But then I can't help but think about ice cream trucks, playing their repetitive high-pitched, plucked-out tunes. Maybe one day you'll be able to personalize the sound your car makes like you do ring tones for your mobile phone.

IF they do go for a "Blade Runner" like noise, what would that sound like? Here's the film's trailer if you want hear the kind of noise they're talking about:

See web-only content:
http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2009/09/making-electric-cars-louder/26843/

Soon you'll know when an electric car is approaching though its artistic industrial sound of the future. I'm eager to see hear what they come up with -- and how other carmakers respond with sounds of their own. Oh the cacophony they will create in the streets. The future is almost here! Now they just have to make those cars fly.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2009/09/making-electric-cars-louder/26843/