Electric cars are better for the environment and cheaper to use. They are gaining ground in many countries as governments strive to achieve carbon neutrality. But one thing they don’t have on regular vehicles – that hoarse roar that lights up the eyes of gearboxes around the world.
Yamaha Motor Co. is working on a solution. Best known for its motorcycles and sharing historical ties to musical instrument maker Yamaha Corp., the company creates a range of soundscapes to replicate the sound an internal combustion engine car makes when accelerating.
Engineers in the division, called Alive, believe sound is crucial for a driver to feel in control and speed. Many people prefer the classic vroom-vroom noise, but the sky is the limit, according to Hideo Fujita, who is part of the soundscapes team at Yamaha. “Even one that looks like Star Wars” is possible, he said.
Yamaha also receives help from its musical partner. He sourced sound chips from the piano maker and worked on tests that treated a car shell more like a musical instrument, examining what kind of sounds resonate best when a driver presses the pedal. .
The Japanese company isn’t alone in trying to bring some excitement to the eerily calm world of electric cars. BMW AG collaborates with German composer Hans Zimmer to produce the sound of the BMW i4, the M version of the BMW i4 and the BMW iX.
However, in Yamaha’s home country, where electric cars are still nascent, even sports car enthusiasts are struggling to get their guttural fix. Japan tightened the rules for passenger car noise last year, limiting sound to 70 to 74 decibels, the equivalent of a vacuum cleaner or television.
Yamaha has not announced when it will start selling the soundscape, but it plans to start small, first selling them to drivers of luxury electric sports cars. One day, as more people switch to electric vehicles, sound devices may become a regular feature of electric vehicles, predicts Yamaha engineer Sumito Tanaka.
“When it comes to creating a soundscape that is compatible with a car, we have these strengths,” Tanaka said. “No one can beat us.”
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