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BMW's Stunning Vision M Will Sound Like Hollywood

Technology / Comments

Award-winning composer, Hans Zimmer, has been drafted to make the new BMW sound spectacular.

There remain many technical issues that need to be worked out regarding certain aspects of electric vehicles. Greater driving range per charge is perhaps key among them. But there's also another aspect that requires attention: sound. You see, EVs are, for the most part, silent. Internal combustion engined-vehicles, on the other hand, sound like a series of controlled explosions. That's because they are. Batteries and electric motors make no such noise, and this poses two problems: lack of emotion and safety. How can, say, a blind person tell if an EV is coming down the street? They rely on hearing to keep them alive.

BMW, like all automakers, is working on the problem, and has enlisted some extraordinary help in doing so. Enter Hans Zimmer, the award-winning Hollywood composer celebrated for numerous soundtracks, among them Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight Trilogy."

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Together with Renzo Vital, BMW's acoustic engineer and sound designer, the pair composed the sound for the just revealed BMW Vision M Next concept. Although it's not a full electric concept, the 600-hp potential i8 successor does have electric motors at all four wheels that receive their power from the turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The two artists worked in Zimmer's studios in London and Los Angeles, and their efforts have paid off.

The sound of the Vision M Next aims to create harmony between the driver and the electrically driven vehicle, achieved through the inspiration of art. "When the driver interacts with the accelerator pedal it is not only a mechanical touchpoint but also a performative element," said Zimmer. "Accelerating becomes an experience during which the driver moves through a series of gradually morphing sound textures."

Although the silence of driving electrically can be a major advantage, the emotional element will quickly be gone, and BMW is determined to prevent that. Visual elements were also important. "The development and composition for the sound of the Vision M NEXT was mainly inspired by light installations from James Turrell and Ólafur Elíasson," Vitale added. "In particular, Turrell realized works known for the illusion of an infinite space, which creates a magical experience for the spectator. The idea behind the Vision M NEXT is to recreate this sense of wonder through sound."

Chances are, the results of Zimmer's and Vitale's work will, in some form, make production one day.