Below about sixteen miles per hour, electric cars make virtually no noise, at least not enough noise for nearby pedestrians to take note. Once you’re moving at speeds in excess of 16 mph, wind noise and tire noise are loud enough to present an acoustic signature, but even this may not be enough to alert cell-phone addicted pedestrians. Nissan has recognized this, and has adopted a retro-futuristic warning tone for the Leaf. Audi also sees the problem and is working on an external sound generator for its e-tron electric concept car. How, though, do you develop a sound that reflects the core values of the Audi brand?
My suggestion that they play Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” was immediately rejected, much to my surprise. Instead, Audi is making this much more complex than it needs to be. Consider the words of Christian Schüller, Audi’s Head of Brand Development/Corporate Identity, as quoted in Autoblog:
“The obvious approach would be to work on the basis of the familiar sound of a combustion engine. On the other hand, we want to underscore that an electric or hybrid Audi is an innovative product. We also want to make our Vorsprung durch Technik audible in the era of electric mobility.”
To me, nothing says “Vorsprung durch Technik” better than “Ride of the Valkyries”, perhaps performed by Kraftwerk on synthesizers. I can’t speak for you, but I know that’s enough to make me get out of the way.