BMW Is Spending A Lot Of Time Figuring Out How To Make EVs Noisy

Technology

At least it already has experience pumping fake engine noise into its M cars.

We spend so much time filling our lives with an orchestra of tasks—some arbitrary and others meaningful—that experiencing the sound of silence can be a strange thing. The lack of noise is the primary reason rich enthusiasts aren’t ditching V12 Lamborghinis for whisper-quiet Tesla Roadsters. It’s also why, according to what Car Advice dug out of BMW’s head of powertrain concepts, Andres Wilde, the German automaker is working on a way to make the car of the future sound sexy even without an engine.

One thing that makes the job slightly easier is the knowledge that once BMW has sorted out that problem, its work is finished. That’s different than what it has to do with gasoline and diesel powered cars. With engines constantly changing from model to to model, automakers typically have to fine tune exhaust systems and other components to work with a given power plant. Electric motors will standardize the process, but the work is equally as hard. That’s mainly because nobody knows what type of sound electric cars should make. “We are working on that… [actually] in the laboratory last week. It’s hard to describe, I cannot sing it. It’s not so easy to keep this sound from a six- or eight-cylinder,” said Wilde.

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With regulators in certain countries requiring automakers to install noisemaking devices for safety, something needs to happen soon. Thankfully BMW is no stranger to in injecting fake noises into more quiet powertrains, as we’ve learned with the latest generation of turbocharged M cars. “It’s positive for the electric cars because they have no sound, except bad sound… we have to do a lot of stuff to find what is the exact characteristics and emotional experience in an electro car, therefore lot of studies going on right now,” added Wilde. Whether future electric car noises materialize as beeps, enhanced whirs of electric motors, or even customizable alert noises has yet to be seen.

Expect this area to yield some interesting results, especially as BMW has pledged to put 25 electrified models on the road by 2025 and is leaving engineers to work through how these vehicles will safely alert pedestrians without annoying entire city blocks.

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