Thanks to technological advances, modern transportation may be silent but at the same time illegal: for safety reasons, the EU and the US have passed laws requiring electric trucks to make low-speed sounds. Manufacturers are now competing in the unique sound of their brands.
Every year, the number of electric vehicles in the world is growing steadily. According to Bloomberg NEF estimates, there are 7,6 million today for more than a billion internal combustion cars, which are only for registered vehicles. Experts estimate that by 2040, only 2 million cars in the world will have electric motors alone. And that is a pretty realistic figure for our near future.
As a rule, all talk of safety or vice versa, the hidden threats of electrification of the transport, are reduced to ecology, but there is another interesting aspect, which was covered in detail by the journalists of The New York Times Electric Cars Need To Make Noise For Safety, But What Kind? It is a problem that at the advent of the first mass electric cars in general, few people took seriously. This is their silence. After all, it is so beautiful and futuristic – a car that makes almost no sound while driving – like a movie!
But life is not a movie, and ten years ago, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a study showing that electric cars are 35% more likely to become pedestrians. And the probability of colliding with a cyclist is higher by as much as 57%. In 2010, the US Congress began drafting a law aimed at protecting pedestrians from electric vehicles. Work on it was completed in 2016 and, according to the document, all electric vehicles at a speed of less than 30 km / h must produce some sound. After all, at higher speeds, the electric vehicle is usually on a suitable road, where collision with a pedestrian is unlikely, and the noise of the tires and wind is sufficient to identify a potential threat. This law, by the way, was applauded by the US Blind Society. However, electric car manufacturers have asked for some adjustments to be made to it, in particular to allow the consumer to choose how his car will sound. The request was granted, the law approved, and it will enter into force in the fall of 2020.
In Europe, however, the relevant law is already in force – from 1 July 2019 all electric vehicles and hybrids at speeds up to 20 km / h must produce a mix of white noise and tone sounds at a volume of about 20 dB. For comparison, it’s about like a standard fridge not the latest generation. And, according to the law, this applies not only to new electric cars, but also to those already in use – the drivers were obliged to equip them with special devices that make the required noise.
The implementation of the law has forced the manufacturers of electric trucks to be more specific about the unique sound of their brands. After all, if conventional cars had to simply perfect the existing sound of a particular engine, then electric cars had to develop sounds from scratch.
For example, Nissan has commissioned a voice for its Leaf-based studio, Man Made Music. What happened – you can hear it here:
Yes, that’s exactly what Man Made Music has been working on for six months to perfect it. As Joel Beckerman, the founder and head of the studio, said “if we did our job properly, you won’t notice it at all. If you hear it, then we are wrong. ” There is only one voice in Leaf, he calls himself Canto, and in our opinion, his studio has done its job flawlessly – it really emphasizes brand identity, it is different, but it does not stand out.
By the way, Man Made Music coped quickly. Jaguar claims that they have been working on the sound for their I-Pace for four years! What happened – you can hear it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdH7xykenGY
Todd Bruner, the engineer who led the sound development for General Motors’ Chevrolet Bolt, says they used a quiet electric hum as a starting point. Their task was to create a pleasant vehicle sound and at the same time make it clear to pedestrians that someone was traveling – that is, to make it as visible as possible. Now the Chevrolet Bolt sounds like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63_i3mZ7Rkk
For comparison, you can still listen to the BMW: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKSmr9gW8dE
As you can see, many manufacturers try to keep the traditional sounds of cars at the core, and this is not just a lack of imagination – their sound is natural and familiar to our hearing. Others want to stand out, looking for new sounds, such as “space”.
And after all, it’s not all that important. The main thing is that the world of absolutely silent electric cars was a utopia – they will all continue to sound. And this is another case where the globalization of modern inventions, in the first place, takes into account security requirements.