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Audi To Offer Robotic Engine Note in Its EVs

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On: Fri, Nov 5, 2010 at 10:13AM | By: Chris Weiss


Audi To Offer Robotic Engine Note in Its EVs

Range anxiety isn't the only big issue facing electric vehicle manufacturers. About a year ago, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration released study findings showing that crashes involving pedestrians and cyclists occurred more frequently among hybrid drivers than among gas-powered drivers. While the NHTSA didn't get involved in analyzing the reasons behind the discrepancy, the quiet, "silent killer" nature of the hybrid (and electric vehicle) has been a concern among road safety organizations, organizations for the blind and vehicle manufacturers. Companies like GM, Toyota and Nissan have worked on artificial systems designed to mimic the sound of a gas car and warn pedestrians of approaching vehicles.

For its own future electric vehicles, Audi has decided to take a different route. Instead of a faux engine grumble, the company is borrowing some inspiration from Hollywood.

Audi has not yet detailed what its system will sound like, but Christian Schüller, Head of Brand Development/Corporate Identity stated in a press release: ""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."

So what exactly will be new and innovative about the sound of Audi e-trons? Audi has ruled out non-mechanical sounds, indicating that the sound will have to be true to the nature of the vehicle.

Dr. Ralf Kunkel, Head of Acoustics at AUDI AG explained generally: "...the sound will be new and unusual. The Audi RSQ from the Hollywood film I, Robot gives an indication of how an Audi might sound in the future."

I suppose when your cars are named "e-tron," a robot-inspired sound scheme makes a lot of sense.

I never saw I, Robot (a decision I stand behind 100 percent) and I had trouble finding a decent YouTube clip of the car's audio--every clip had some type of dramatic soundtrack with no actual noise from the car. So I'm not entirely sure what it sounds like. But anyone that's actually seen the entire movie should have a good idea.

Audi has been showing off various versions of both electric vehicles and hybrids under the "e-tron" name since the Frankfurt Motor Show of last year. The original e-tron debuted at Frankfurt; a smaller R4 version bowed in Detroit; a hybrid A1 was shown in Geneva; and, most recently, the e-tron Spyder debuted in Paris. The latest model featured a 3.0-liter V6 diesel and 44-hp electric motor that gave the concept a range of 621 miles.

Don't worry about looking like too much of a weirdo on the highway, Audi's Robot sound system will only be relevant at speeds below about 16 mph. At higher speeds, the sounds of rolling tires negate the audible gap between electrics and hybrids, making the artificial sound unnecessary.

PRESS RELEASE:

The sound of silence: How Audi is working on the acoustics of future electric cars

  • Electric cars are virtually silent at speeds up to 25 km/h (15.53 mph)
  • Acousticians working intensely on future sound design
  • Sound should reflect brand's core values


Ingolstadt, November 2, 2010 – The sonorous sound of a six-cylinder engine; the silky murmur of a V8: the sounds of combustion engines are a constant of road traffic that everyone can associate with a car. With electric cars all that is passé because they are virtually silent up to a speed of 25 km/h (15.53 mph ). The risk to others is obvious. There is only one logical conclusion for the sound technicians at Aud i: The electric car of the future needs its own sound – but which one?

"We speak of quiet cars when an electric car is driven at a speed between 0 – 25 km/h (15.53 mph)," explains Dr. Ralf Kunkel, Head of Acoustics at AUDI AG. Up to this speed electric cars are virtually silent as they glide through the streets. Noise from the rolling of the tires and from the slipstream comes to the forefront above this speed, at which point an electric car is no longer significantly more quiet than a conventional vehicle.

The fact that this new form of transportation is particularly quiet is, of course, another factor of its success. After all, environment-friendly automobiles should not only reduce emissions, but also noise pollution. However, speed without the typical road noises that serve as a signal harbors risks: The sense of hearing allows participants in traffic to monitor all 360 degrees of their surroundings, whereas the eyes only cover a limited angle. People with poorer vision or who are distracted can easily overlook a car.

Organizations for the blind worldwide therefore advocate giving quiet cars a unique sound; specifications or laws to this effect are already in place in the U.S.A. and Japan.

The sound technicians at Audi have long since taken up the task of protecting pedestrians in the electric mobility era. "One way do this is by generating artificial noise in electric cars," says Kunkel. The acousticians are currently hard at work on the sound 1/2 design of the Audi e-tron. It is not just a matter of safety, but also a question of how the Audi of the future should sound.

"The obvious approach would be to work on the basis of the familiar sound of a combustion engine," says Christian Schüller, Head of Brand Development/Corporate Identity. "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."

The rustling of leaves, the twittering of birds or shrill tones such as those used on snow cats are therefore not viable options. However: "The sounds used for space ships in films are reminiscent of car sounds, yet are also very different, making this a rather interesting approach," says Kunkel. An Audi will not sound like an airplane with jet engines or a space ship from a science fiction film any time soon, though. "But the sound will be new and unusual. The Audi RSQ from the Hollywood film I, Robot gives an indication of how an Audi might sound in the future."




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