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What Should a Nine-Thousand-Pound Electric Vehicle Sound Like? (link to New Yorker article)


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An interesting article. The writer talks to engineers in Detroit, people at IRCAM, a sound designer in Brooklyn, etc. A well-written 20-minute read.

 

What Should a Nine-Thousand-Pound Electric Vehicle Sound Like?

E.V.s are virtually silent, so acoustic designers are creating alerts for them. A symphony—or a cacophony—of car noise could be coming to city streets.

By John Seabrook

August 1, 2022

 

I'm pretty sure nonsubscribers can read a few articles without problem:

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2022/08/08/what-should-a-nine-thousand-pound-electric-vehicle-sound-like

 

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Branching off of the quote from the linked article:    " Electric vehicles offer a vast new stage for sound designers, both inside and outside the vehicles. "

 

The following 1 minute You Tube highlight is from this:   https://www.podcastone.com/episode/Twenty-Thousand-Hertz-Host-Nerds-Out-on-All-Things-Audio-With-Oxford-Roads-VP-of-Creative-Services

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

" Dallas Taylor is the host and creator of Twenty Thousand Hertz, a lovingly crafted podcast revealing the stories behind the world’s most recognizable and interesting sounds.   https://www.20k.org/about

 

Dallas is also the Creative Director of Defacto Sound, where he has led thousands of high-profile sound design projects—from blockbuster trailers and advertising campaigns, to major television series and Sundance award-winning films.

 

Additionally, Dallas is a TED Mainstage Speaker, a regular contributor to major publications, and a respected thought leader on the narrative power of sound. For more, visit dallastaylor.com. "

 

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16 hours ago, Olle Sjostrom said:

I tend to hear a Renault Zoe very clearly, they have a very distinct hum to them, I think it's a major seven chord humming. Very effective. 

 


I love that sound. I was annoyed at first when there was talk of a legal requirement to fit electric cars with noisemakers, but Renault certainly solved this in a very pleasant manner. 
I still maintain that people should look before crossing a street instead of listening, but some people don’t agree. I‘ve had heated discussions on this topic, which I find really weird. But I digress…

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19 hours ago, Olle Sjostrom said:

Such an interesting field. I tend to hear a Renault Zoe very clearly, they have a very distinct hum to them, I think it's a major seven chord humming. Very effective. 

And thank you for the podcast recommendation, have to check it out :)

 

As Seabrook points out, Renault worked with IRCAM's Perception and Sound Design group. Poke around here and you can find some of their published research on EV sounds: https://www.ircam.fr/recherche/equipes-recherche/pds/

 

In one of my future lives, I'm going to work at IRCAM...

 

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8 hours ago, Constantin said:

I still maintain that people should look before crossing a street instead of listening, but some people don’t agree. I‘ve had heated discussions on this topic, which I find really weird. But I digress…

Haha!  A heated argument!  That's rich.  Those folks should not be allowed in public, they are dangerous.  I would probably want to commit suicide it I accidentally killed a pedestrian.  I can't even stand thinking about the bugs I used to kill as a small child.

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22 hours ago, Constantin said:

I still maintain that people should look before crossing a street instead of listening, but some people don’t agree. I‘ve had heated discussions on this topic, which I find really weird. But I digress…

 

In the New Yorker article, Seabrook points out the the (US-based) National Federation of the Blind pushed/lobbied for regulations around EV sounds. And as a cyclist, I really appreciate knowing if a hybrid or electric car is coming up on me (I have a small Garmin radar on my bike that alerts me to most vehicles coming up, but not everyone has that, and my radar isn't perfect). And as a sometimes pedestrian, I find that even after looking to make sure the road is clear, sometimes cars will turn onto the road from a side street. So ya, people should look when they can, but that's not always enough ime. 

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3 hours ago, Jim Feeley said:

the (US-based) National Federation of the Blind pushed/lobbied for regulations around EV sounds

Well, you got me there! That actually makes sense. And demonstrates that I didn’t read the arcticle. Although I personally (and I‘m not blind, so I’m just guessing) think that any car driving is loud enough to be heard, but especially by blind people, even without that EV sound. The tires on the asphalt alone are quite noisy. Although if the lobby for the blind pushed for it, there must be something to it. Maybe also they didn’t anticipate how loud electric vehicles still are?

I‘m a cyclist too, though, and usually I can’t hear anything because of my in-ears blasting music… no, that’s a joke.

The wind is usually so loud I can’t hear much else so I really have to look. 
 

But with all that said, like I mentioned before, I really like that Renault sound and if all cars had that, that‘d be fine. Especially as for now you can switch it off. 

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Constantin, you might like the article. The writing in the New Yorker is a cut above most magazines, and this article is well reported; Seabrook did his homework (though there are a couple minor mistakes, imo). Anyway, it's a good read and gets a bit into the psychoacoustics of how we pay attention to some sounds and ignore others. Pretty interesting stuff...

 

When I ride, I pay attention (because I don't want to get hit), but when I'm riding (what passes these days for) hard, I can't always hear EVs and hybrids that don't have alert sounds coming up on me. 

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About cyclists/pedestrians and electric vehicles, my own unscientific experience as a driver of both an full electric car and electric motorcycle; the car has the sound build in. The motor cycle not. On residential roads, I always have to honk my horn a bit to warn cyclists that I am coming from behind, on the motor cycle, because it really is dead silent. Often more silent than a fellow bicycle. The car, they sense me indeed because of the speakers, so they move to the side or at least watch their backs. 

 

My car, a Hyundai Kona Electric, has quite a similar sound as the Renault Zoe

 

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