So, does a car really have a signature sound? Yes. I know this because my father worked for Mercedes-Benz for 30 years. As a result, I’ve been able to tell when a Mercedes is driving up behind me since middle school. The engine has a very distinctive sound that I could easily pick out of an audio lineup. I couldn’t describe in words exactly what it sounds like, but I can instantly distinguish it from the sound of any other car engine on the road with 100% accuracy.
The automobile industry, however, has undergone many changes since my middle school days. One of the biggest is the advent of the electric car. It seems inevitable that every carmaker will be moving in this direction. And with the electric car, comes the silent engine. Does this mean car engines will lose their signature sounds forever?
Absolutely not. In fact, creating a signature car sound could become an art in and of itself. Just ask the makers of Audi. The car company is currently working towards the debut of its electric supercar, the R8 e-tron. And Audi is bringing the idea of a signature sound straight to the gas pedal…and directly out of two speakers mounted to the front of this much-anticipated car.
Audi has spent over three years working on the e-sound audio system for its silent supercar. They started out by testing an R8 e-tron prototype in an 1,100 square-foot sound lab.
“The problem is you don’t have any tool that you can buy on the market. You have to develop the hardware. You have to develop the software. And you have to find a great sound for the car and this took us more than three years.” said Dr. Ralf Kunkel, Head of Acoustics for AUDIO AG.
Check out some of the results:
For the die-hard car enthusiast, the Audi R8 e-tron has four electric motors that, together, produce 313 HP coupled with an impressive 3,319.03 lb-ft of torque. It can reportedly go from 0-62 mph in 4.8 seconds and has a lithium-ion battery with 42.4 kWh of capacity. That means the cautious driver would get about 154 miles of driving on one charge. But I’m guessing whomever is behind the wheel of this car is not a cautious driver.
And while the idea of creating signature sounds for your otherwise silent engine may seem like nothing more than a unique marketing and branding strategy, it was born of something entirely different.
A silent car is a safety hazard for many pedestrians, bicyclists, and others on the road. In fact, just last year the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010 was signed into law. It requires the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to ensure that electric and hybrid car manufacturers add noises that alert pedestrians to their approach.
This practical technology certainly presents a unique opportunity for some awesome innovations. Hmmm…I see downloadable car-tones in our future.