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Noisy EVs, a Future Trend?

Hello and welcome to your daily Charge Smart blog! Yesterday, we showed you a Bank of America study that proved that EVs really are cheaper to own than ICE cars. Today, we'll be talking about noisy EVs!

Let's look back at the rise of EVs, can you think of one group in particular who've been whining on about the lack of sound? Yes, it's the car enthusiast community. They've been banging on about how EVs are characterless without sound but funnily enough, it's not them who are turning noisy EVs into a reality. Instead, it’s now the road authorities who are advocating for EVs to make a noise. And get this, the noise isn’t for the driver but it’s for pedestrians!

We know that that electric cars are silent for the most part apart from a quiet whine of the electric motor but by later this year, the US is making it mandatory for all electric and hybrid cars to make a sound. The law states that the sound should be produced at lower speeds because of pedestrian safety. The American government predicts that the number of visually impaired Americans is going to double in the next 30 years which makes it more important for the cars to make a noise not just for those people but also for their guide dogs. Humans also react quicker to sound in our ‘fight or flight’ moments. The UK is also bringing a similar law into action in 2021, stating that EVs should emit a noise at low speeds or while reversing to alert pedestrians and guide dogs.

Above: Noisy EVs are helpful for guide dogs when helping the visually impaired to cross roads

Naturally, car makers are using this law to their advantage. They are playing around with various sounds to try and come up with the right tune which can trigger the amygdala. That’s the part of the brain that controls our moods, emotions and memory. This means that if the sound of the car makes you happy, you would probably me more likely to buy that car. Our emotions have a strong influence on our purchasing decisions and we can be sure that car makers are going to try all sorts of tricks to make you buy more of their cars! Just think about the public launch of the Ford Mustang Mach E. The Mustang brand is one that is filled with a rich history of motorsport and the Mustang has got a large enthusiast following all around the world. So, when the Mach E drove up to make its debut, it made a low rumble sort of sound. Almost reminiscent of the V8s that have been such a big part of the Mustang’s history. It was pretty unusual but helped reassure that large community of Mustang enthusiasts that they hadn’t been forgotten.

Above: The Mustang Mach E will make a V8 rumble style sound

That’s pretty cool and Ford isn’t the only doing this as you’ll see. Car manufacturers are repeatedly testing different combinations of musical notes and timbres. And automakers are really diving deep into this field by hiring professional musicians along with neuroscientists and psychologists in order to create that ‘perfect’ note. The purpose of which is to make you feel like you’re enveloped in luxury, security or just satisfied with the drive. Hmm, I wonder what luxury sounds like……

The award-winning Jaguar I-Pace for example has a spaceship type sound to it. That’s because the British manufacturer hired music producer, Richard Devine to create the sound for it. He drew inspiration from the Star Wars movie franchise and from the sound of electrical motors on modern fans. It’s a strange thought for sure but it works! Devine went through a process to create two individual tones, one of the passengers and one for pedestrians. He also wanted to create a specific sound for the touchscreen so that whenever you used it, you would feel like the screen or the car was responding to you using its own language. That’s some proper sci-fi stuff and Jag are not the only ones to experiment with this. Harley-Davidson’s motorbikes have gained a reputation for gathering some strange looks because of the loud rumble made by their bikes but that’s something that has become part of the brand’s image. Again, Harley has a large number of fans all around the world which means that the release of their electric bike, the LiveWire would have troubled them a little bit. Though the new bike is a little quieter than the petrol ones of old, it still makes that distinct rumbling sound.

Above: The Harley Davidson LiveWire

One could say that the turn of the century brought with it a focus on sound. Everything from the cabin quietness of a car to the sound your vacuum cleaner makes is now tuned to some extent. From a marketing perspective, something like this is ‘helpful’ to our brains because we associate sounds with brands or products and that is most commonly true for cars. Off the top of my head, I can recall the noise of a V8 or the unique pop that comes with Volkswagen’s DSG gearbox. Let’s move from engine or in the case of EVs, motor noises to companies creating noises for the interior of the car. If you’ve ever set foot in a modern Hyundai then you’ll know that it makes some sort of sound, almost like the intro to a song or the startup tune of the Gran Turismo video game. Well, Hyundai spent 18 months creating that six-tone sequence for their new cars, that sound was meant to convey the refined nature of Hyundai’s cars while becoming an instantly recognisable feature of the brand. Porsche has been using their ‘sound symposer’ to pipe a tasteful amount of engine noise into the cabin to create an aural experience, Volkswagen have also employed a similar technology previously. Companies have to be careful not to overdo this audio experience as VW found out in 2016. Poor ol’ VW, they just can’t seem to get a break! Back to the topic of electric motor noises.

Darren Palmer who is Ford’s director of EV development said that the long running success of the Mustang was down to one thing, emotion! So, when Ford decided that their first EV would be under the Mustang brand, they had to be very careful not to upset its fans. Ford had a 100-member team who spent a year trying to create a sound for the Mach E. They experimented with several sounds inspired by the Batman trilogy and even the tune from the Blade Runner films. They tested the sound on customers and chose to listen to their opinions instead of those of experienced car designers. Palmer called the Mustang’s sound “totally new and completely natural”. We can’t wait to hear the sounds that car manufacturers come up with over the next couple of years as the new laws around EV sounds come into action.

Thanks for reading! Tomorrow, we'll be talking about Norway who've lost their lead in EV sales. Who's the new kid on the block who has overtaken them?

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