The Electric Car Sound

What should an electric car sound like? Most of us are surprised at the question, but in fact, an electric car at medium speeds is so quiet it can sneak up on pedestrians and the drivers of other cars. For the driver of an electric car, the silence can make it harder to know how the car is running or, indeed, how fast it is going. At faster speeds, the sound of the car is mainly the sound of wind and tire resistance, a sound that will change with every design refinement, possibly misleading drivers as they adjust to the changes. Like computers, electric cars are easier to deal with when operating sounds are added.

Perhaps surprisingly, the sound question is not something for mechanical engineers to work on, but is a question better suited for musicians to address. The involvement of musicians makes sense when you think about it. What sound will improve the electric car experience? It is musicians, along with composers and sound designers, who know about making sounds that improve an experience.

Roland, a company better known for musical synthesizers, is working with car maker GLM to make a real-time synthesizer program for GLM’s electric sports cars. The sounds will be as expressive as any traditional mechanical car, responding to the driving conditions surrounding the car in the same way that a musical synthesizer responds to keys, sliders, ribbons, and other tactile controllers to create an infinitely variable sound. The “driving sound system” will be available first as an option on GLM’s ZZ model this fall.

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