16 September 2011
Electric vehicles make almost no sound. That’s a hugely important win after a century of loud internal combustion engines stealing what brief snatches of quiet we find on walks or bike rides.
But that’s a problem. The internal combustion engine is not only a cost-effective motive force generator; it’s a safety feature. You can hear an approaching car. You can’t really hear an approaching EV, unless the environment around is really quiet.
If you’re sight-impaired, this is no laughing matter.
On the Chevy Volt, engineers designed what I call a horn belch, activated by tugging on the turn-signal bar on the steering wheel. Automobile manufacturers are looking for other ways to tackle the problem, such as generating some constant sound, whether it’s an imitation of an internal combustion engine, a low hum or something else.
I was impressed during a visit to Tokyo when the opening and closing of the subway-train doors was signaled by the sound of birds chirping. How perfectly Japanese and how elegant.
How would you approach this design challenge when it comes to electric vehicles? Would you look for a solution that was always-on (like the low hum)? Would you favor a user-generated response? Would you deploy sensors to signal the car to make a noise?
Let us know below!