Volkswagen released an audio file of the sound its ID3 EV will make. The sound, developed by composer Leslie Mandoki, will be used as an integral part of VW’s entire electric-vehicle brand.
VW’s Acoustic Vehicle Alerting System (AVAS) will generate the artificial driving sound at speeds up to about 19 miles per hour or when reversing. It will be audible inside and outside the vehicle up to that speed, with the sound changing based on speed and the position of the accelerator pedal.
Frank Welsch, VW’s chief development officer for passenger cars, said:
An electric vehicle’s sound defines its identity. The sound should be confident and likeable. It may well sound futuristic and must also impress with its unique character.
Judge for yourself, but it sounds high-tech and slightly dizzying to our ears.
The ID3 goes on sale in Europe in summer 2020, but will not be sold in the United States.
In July, the European Union started requiring electric cars to emit a noise for pedestrian safety. An EV’s Acoustic Vehicle Alerting System (AVAS) must make a sound when traveling below 12 miles per hour or if going in reverse.
All new electric cars sold, regardless of model, must be equipped to meet those AVAS standards by July 1, 2021. Electric vehicles have come with pedestrian sounds for years. Many of them could be turned off by the driver, but new models will be required to keep it activated.
In the US, automakers have until September 2020 to institute their pedestrian noise systems into new EVs. That rule will apply to electric cars and hybrids traveling at speed up to about 19 miles per hour, explaining why VW chose that speed threshold.
Carmakers are evaluating sounds not because they are absolutely necessary, but as a means to brand their EVs. It’s a vestige from the pre-electric days when a loud rumbling engine note represented a car brand, even as that inefficient engine burned fossil fuels and produced tailpipe emissions.
Last month, we visited the studio of famed Hollywood composer Hans Zimmer, who is developing the sound of BMW’s electrified vehicles.
Klaus Bischoff, head of design for the Volkswagen Brand, explained the company’s approach:
Thanks to their sound, electric vehicles are given their own voice that we can design ourselves regardless of mechanical sounds. The ID.3 radiates safety and the promise of effortless mobility: It will take us everywhere.
The first time the EV audio will be heard on American roadways is when the ID Crozz all-electric crossover arrives in the US in late 2020. Scott Keogh, CEO of VW of America, said last month that the ID CROZZ would sell in the low- to mid-$30,000 range after a $7,500 federal tax credit. That suggests a pre-incentive sticker price of around $40,000 for the brand’s first high-volume, ground-up EV sold in the US.
Silence, or near silence, would be a good brand sound. If pedestrian warnings are legally required, they should be as quiet and unobtrusive as possible while still providing adequate warning. Let’s not clutter the urban environment with unnecessary noise.
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