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The cars of the future: could they sound like this?

Halosonic car

New laws could mean electric cars have to make more noise. Listen here to find out what our roads might soon sound like.

Electric cars are tipped to take off, but one of the stumbling blocks to them being mainstream is the fact they’re so quiet. Electric cars hardly make any noise which potentially poses danger to pedestrians who may not hear them approach.

To tackle this, sound engineers have been coming up with ways to add external sounds to electric vehicles and new legislation, which is already being adopted worldwide, could be introduced in the UK by 2015 and will mean electric cars have to make noise. 

The US Department of Transport is already developing standards for an alert sound that will allow pedestrians to ‘reasonably detect’ a nearby vehicle.  And Japan has already issued guidelines for such devices, although it’s not mandatory.

Similar legislation is now being considered in Europe, a number of organisations including the European Commission and The European association of automotive suppliers are investigating the possibility of adding external sounds to otherwise silent cars.

But what this noise will sound like is still open to interpretation allowing some electric vehicle manufacturers to get creative. From spaceship sounds to racing cars and even the possibility of having your own jingle; the electric car market could alter the sound of our roads.

I took the opportunity to find out for myself, first hand, what future electric cars could sound like. Watch the video below to see how a Toyota Prius hybrid sounds with a Halosonic external soundbox produced by Harman. And read on for more about how external sounds could revolutionise the electric car market.

Harman is not the only company to have started developing external sounds for cars.

Delphi Automotive is among several suppliers offering these sound-producing systems, and its latest sounder can "reproduce melodies that represent the identity of individual vehicle manufacturers,” it claims.

But the sound debate surrounding electric vehicles has its critics, with many manufacturers reluctant to hide the fact that they have created almost silent cars.

Speaking about the Delphi sound system, Richard Gotch from Market Engineering said: “It’s inevitable that this legislation will come in and the European Community is already looking at it.

“Cars make noise anyway so this is about how to make noise that is different. Not necessarily worse but different.”

Market Engineering also predicts that external sounds could be DIY. So a driver might be able to create their own unique noise, within certain criteria. Brands could also use electric vehicles to promote their own jingles.

If you have thoughts on the video or the way manufacturers are shaping the cars of the future, share you comments below.


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Lois Avery

Lois Avery

Lois joined in 2010 after working for Dyson and as a local newspaper reporter in Wiltshire. After a year writing financial journalism at, Lois won the 2011 'most promising newcomer' at the BIBA journalist of the year awards.

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