Electric Vehicles to Orchestrate the Soundscape of the Future

Electric vehicle sound

I remember getting into a car and I couldn’t feel or believe that I was moving inside a vehicle because I have only traveled in diesel-powered jeeps or buses until then. For me, the noise of the moving vehicle was the primary sign that I am moving. Now I believe the entire automobile industry is in such a phase because the recent influx of electric vehicles into our roads is making our roads quieter a lot quieter than we anticipated.

As we all know electric vehicles make no or little noise since they don’t have the roaring engine and its reciprocating pistons.

Though quieter roads and cities are great news for all of us, there are few challenges as well and some of these challenges have the potential to create even bigger problems on the road than the existing ones

A few of the topics we will discuss today are,

  • Are they supposed to be silent?
  • The opportunity to orchestrate the soundscape of the future
  • The challenges as well as the responsibility which comes along with the opportunity

Are they supposed to be silent?

If you are a city dweller you would scream yes yes a 100 times yes. You experience the problems and irritations caused to you by the ic engines. There’s no denying that road traffic noise has a detrimental effect on city life and there’s a lot of evidence that there’s a connection between road traffic noise and health problems, such as an elevated risk of myocardial infarction(heart attack) and hypertension.

Though the quiet nature of electric cars has the potential to solve the above problems they bring other safety hazards because,

  • The sound of the vehicle gives the driver an idea about the speed of the vehicle.
  • The sound from a vehicle serves as an indication and warning for pedestrians and cyclists.
  • Interestingly the vehicles orchestrate the sounds of our cities and keeping them what they are.

Electric cars are 40% more likely to hit people, according to a study conducted by The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association (Guide Dogs) in the UK. This is because, according to an additional study from the University of California at Riverside, pedestrians are unable to hear an EV approaching until it is just a fraction of a second away from colliding with them.

In order to make the roads safer, countries around the world have put forth regulations that EVs should have warning sounds at lower speeds. According to EU regulations, the sounds need to be clearly audible up to a speed of 20 km/h. In the USA, they are required until 31 km/h. This will give the signal to pedestrians and bicyclists that a car is approaching, accelerating, or braking.

Now let us look at the opportunity to orchastrate the soundscape of our future and at the same time address few concerns come along with this great opportunity.

The great opportunity and the great challenge

Companies are approaching this opportunity with great passion and optimism. Previously  Automakers had to invest great amounts of money, time, and effort to design and tune their IC engines to sound good and under the permitted voice levels at different speeds. Now with EVs, their challenge takes a 180-degree shift that they have to create noise rather than eliminating it.

For automakers, this is an opportunity as well as a challenge because,

  • On a primary level, this is something contrary to what they were doing for decades.
  • It is challenging to create sounds that resonate with the company’s vision.
  • There is plenty of room where things can go wrong and puts the company in jeopardy.
  • Incorporating artistic touch without losing masculinity is a tough job.

Different companies have different takes on when it comes to make their EVs sound futuristic and many of them sounds promising while few among them is confusing. 

Many players, Many plans

Automakers may be classified into two groups. The first group comprises artists who have taken cues from the sound of gasoline cars—or at least attempted to make it sound as if something were going on under the hood, but with a modern twist. Audi, Ford and Jaguar are few to name who has taken this path. 

Whereas, on the other hand, certain automakers are uninterested in recreating the sound of an IC engine. They believe it is preposterous to communicate that, there are several moving parts inside the hood when there is not.

When we think about it, the challenge becomes more and more clear. To sound futuristic yet not losing the thrill and experience of driving a supercar which comes from all the five human senses is a demanding job.The companies should also make sure that they use this opportunity to coney their vision through the sounds of their vehicles.

Now that we have covered the opportunities and challenges, let us look at the responsibility part for the automakers and the ones who are going to drive those cars.

The Responsibility

The automakers have the ability to put devices that allow drivers to adjust the engine noises in their vehicles, making them sound like anything from a motorcycle to a UFO( Flying plates used by aliens to visit earth). This privilege alarms me because, excessive customization and diversity of vehicle sound may result in jarring, noisy disasters in urban soundscapes and might make the scenario even worst than earlier. 


Automakers may add fancy sounds to their cars as an option because they may risk their business without innovation and certain customization. Now that we have discussed the great opportunity and the challenges which come along with it, now it is our turn to exercise this new privilege wisely and sensitively.

We should not make this wonderful opportunity to create a mess on our roads and make the situation even worst.

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