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RE: Electricity killed the radio star

RE: Electricity killed the radio star

Wednesday 22nd November 2017

Electricity killed the radio star

Why the way the electric motors of the future sound could be just as important as how they go...



Remember the howls of derision when the first 1.6-litre turbo V6 hybrid F1 cars droned their way around Melbourne in 2014? And, one year after that, the screeches of protest when Porsche announced that its next Boxster would have a four-cylinder engine?


We'll probably have a good old laugh about all this in a few years' time when variants of the washing machine motor will be powering most, if not all, cars, and firms like Sony and LG will be the biggest players on the world stage (automotive included). Here and now, though, we're all still highly energised by our beloved internal combustion engines - and it's mainly to do with the noise they make.

A few weeks back, Jenson Button made an unfavourable comparison between today's low-revving F1 cars and the 21,000rpm V10 screamers of yore. The fact that F1's new stars-and-stripes-top-hat-wearing overlords are trying to spice up the sound by implanting new microphones in the cars might not seem that inspiring, but it shows the importance that we, the paying public, attach to the right sort of mechanical noise. Throw in the strong indication from Porsche, two years after the anti-reveal of the four-pot Boxster, that its much more soulful flat-six can after all continue in the next Boxster Spyder, and we start to see the power of the human earhole.


How will the manufacturer of an electric vehicle get around the fact that their motor is about as sonically interesting as an unoiled mangle? Eventually, of course, we will become accustomed to whatever we're served up, but in today's critical transition phase from litres to volts, it's odd how disinterested EV makers seem to be in the idea of making their 'engines' interesting.

It's not going to be easy. An electric motor is an extremely simple thing that quietly converts electrical energy into mechanical energy. The conversion of fuel into energy is a lot more exciting, involving noise, explosions, vibration and smells, none of which you would hope to find in an electric motor. The only smell you're likely to get from an EV - other than the whiff of disappointment arising from the lack of fuel-burning - is the rather worrying hot-wire stench that will be all-too familiar to anyone who's ever owned a Scalextric set.

The inherent tedium of EVs isn't electricity's fault: it's just the way science goes. But it's an issue that will surely have to be addressed in order for there to be wiggle room for the marketing bods to operate in. Presently, the only point of difference between one EV and another is how many motors it has.


The assumption is that progress will move the electric motor on from its present makeup of a rotor and a stator inside a grey metal casing to something rather more exciting, visually as well as aurally. Before they were shrouded in black plastic to put us off the idea of home maintenance, many car engines succeeded in taking on an aesthetic as well as a mechanical appeal. Even the ugly ancillary-encrusted Porsche 911 motor has managed to evolve into an objet d'art in the Singer/Williams 500hp Mezger unit, a wonderfully rendered and brilliantly integrated masterpiece that will sound as good as it looks

Unless and until a similar degree of glamourisation is brought to bear on the electric motor, the 'engine' as a basic concept will shrink back from its current starring position to much more of a bit-part role. And that will be a pity.


In the meantime, the internal combustion engine is hanging in there with some interesting death-throe developments of its own. Mazda's Skyactiv project is probably the most intriguing mechanical development programme that most people have never heard of. And the variable compression ratio engine that was previewed by Saab's hinging-head design of the early 2000s has just reappeared nearly two decades later in Infiniti's QX50 prototype, scheduled for production in 2019.

As your old Dad probably used to say, there's nowt new under the sun. Let's hope that some of that enlightenment will shine on the electric motor.

 

 

 

 

Author
Discussion

Sorted_

Original Poster:

568 posts

120 months

Wednesday 22nd November 2017
quotequote all
Companies like Kufatec already have this covered.

Tesla V8 emulation - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpX4rNtVP-g

Setting up - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V2JPi3vcqtI

V8 FOU

2,355 posts

72 months

Wednesday 22nd November 2017
quotequote all
Valid article.
Noise of an engine is so much of the whole driving experience - that's why I own so many V8's.
Not sure a lot can be done with the EV's - although some enhacement of the Jet-like whistle of the Formula -E cars might be quite cool.

unpc

1,782 posts

138 months

Wednesday 22nd November 2017
quotequote all
I thought that Nio EP9 sounded ace. That said most EVs don't make any noise as such but for mass market stuff that's probably a good thing.

Dynamic Space Wizard

146 posts

29 months

Wednesday 22nd November 2017
quotequote all
It's a very disappointing article. I saw the headline and I hoped a DJ had electrocuted itself. laugh

Decky_Q

1,015 posts

102 months

Wednesday 22nd November 2017
quotequote all
I once drove a supercharged 2.2 with no oil in the gearbox (I didn't know until after as the SC hid the noise until it was too late) and the combination of metallic whistle and speed dependant whine was very pleasant in a futuristic kind of way. I think PH electric cars will sound similar in the future.
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Evilex

420 posts

29 months

Wednesday 22nd November 2017
quotequote all
What's wrong with something being quietly efficient?

99dndd

514 posts

14 months

Wednesday 22nd November 2017
quotequote all
Most depressing thing in that article is the mention of the fact that the early 2000s are nearly 20 years ago.

I reckon we'll hate the way these motors sound until the next generation ones come along, then we'll reminisce about that glorious "whirr" the 1st generation Teslas had...

NDNDNDND

575 posts

108 months

Wednesday 22nd November 2017
quotequote all
Sorted_ said:
Companies like Kufatec already have this covered.

Tesla V8 emulation - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpX4rNtVP-g

Setting up - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V2JPi3vcqtI
What kind of pathetic, desperate cretin would actually want this?

Turbobanana

827 posts

126 months

Wednesday 22nd November 2017
quotequote all
V8 FOU said:
Valid article.
Noise of an engine is so much of the whole driving experience - that's why I own so many V8's.
Not sure a lot can be done with the EV's - although some enhancement of the Jet-like whistle of the Formula -E cars might be quite cool.
Disagree - pointless article.

If we're so bothered about noise, why do we insist on buying cars with in-car entertainment? Granted not everyone will take such an extreme view as me, and I do love a good V8 (or V6, V12, I5 etc), but even PH spends as much of its time commenting on the quality of ICE and Infotainment systems in new car reviews as it does on performance, handling etc.

Which would you rather have: the quickest, most-fun, best-handling silent car or the one that makes the best noise?

Caruso

6,747 posts

181 months

Wednesday 22nd November 2017
quotequote all
I think there's hope. The straight cut planetary gearbox on my Vectrix gives it the sound of something between a tube train and a tie fighter. And it's a sound that varies considerably under different load conditions.

kambites

53,121 posts

146 months

Wednesday 22nd November 2017
quotequote all
I can't help but feel that we only like the noise internal combustion engines make because we're familiar with it and associate it with speed. Had cars been electric since inception and someone had suddenly come up with a noisy V8, I suspect we'd all think it sounded awful.

Frankly even having grown up loving the noise some engines make, I'd rather have an EV than most modern engines, even multi-cylinder "performance" ones sound either sterile or contrived. I'm certainly not going to miss the sound of the four-pot turbo in our family car. I'm not sure I'll ever go EV for my "fun" car but our white-goods motoring I really don't see a down-side.

howardhughes

156 posts

129 months

Wednesday 22nd November 2017
quotequote all
"emulation - noun [mass noun]

effort to match or surpass a person or achievement, typically by imitation"

I rest my case.

Ozone

2,731 posts

112 months

Wednesday 22nd November 2017
quotequote all
Dynamic Space Wizard said:
It's a very disappointing article. I saw the headline and I hoped a DJ had electrocuted itself. laugh
hehe

NDNDNDND said:
Sorted_ said:
Companies like Kufatec already have this covered.

Tesla V8 emulation - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpX4rNtVP-g

Setting up - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V2JPi3vcqtI
What kind of pathetic, desperate cretin would actually want this?
I was thinking that the sound of horses hooves clippety clopping for the engine sound, and a bit of neighing when braking scratchchin

GTEYE

1,005 posts

135 months

Wednesday 22nd November 2017
quotequote all
kambites said:
I can't help but feel that we only like the noise internal combustion engines make because we're familiar with it and associate it with speed. Had cars been electric since inception and someone had suddenly come up with a noisy V8, I suspect we'd all think it sounded awful.

Frankly even having grown up loving the noise some engines make, I'd rather have an EV than most modern engines, even multi-cylinder "performance" ones sound either sterile or contrived. I'm certainly not going to miss the sound of the four-pot turbo in our family car. I'm not sure I'll ever go EV for my "fun" car but our white-goods motoring I really don't see a down-side.
+1 I can see a time in the not too distant future where the electric motor and associated sound becomes the norm for the masses, and someone reading this thread in 10-20 years time will wonder what all the fuss was about.

Do we miss Sony tape or CD Walkmans? Not really....

3yardy3

51 posts

39 months

Wednesday 22nd November 2017
quotequote all
Evilex said:
What's wrong with something being quietly efficient?
Nothing! But please tell me this was a pointless comment for the sake of commenting?

This is pistonheads! we want excitement and noise with efficiency!

Too Drunk to Funk

440 posts

2 months

Wednesday 22nd November 2017
quotequote all

havoc

23,360 posts

160 months

Wednesday 22nd November 2017
quotequote all
Turbobanana said:
Which would you rather have: the quickest, most-fun, best-handling silent car or the one that makes the best noise?
Are they mutually exclusive?

Oh, and quickest DOESN'T equal most fun, not in most people's books. In just the same way that best-handling doesn't equal grippiest (often the opposite).

As an e.g. the most enjoyable cars I've driven have tended to be the lighter* ones, as there's less 'cotton wool' between you and the car, and between you and the outside world, maximising all of the sensations/feedback. The ultimate expression of this is a Caterham...or a bike!

GTEYE said:
kambites said:
I can't help but feel that we only like the noise internal combustion engines make because we're familiar with it and associate it with speed. Had cars been electric since inception and someone had suddenly come up with a noisy V8, I suspect we'd all think it sounded awful.
+1 I can see a time in the not too distant future where the electric motor and associated sound becomes the norm for the masses, and someone reading this thread in 10-20 years time will wonder what all the fuss was about.

Do we miss Sony tape or CD Walkmans? Not really....
Disagree. Tapes/walkmans are the media for carrying data (music), which is the source of pleasure. They are not the pleasure itself.

Also, there is something feral / animalistic about the best-sounding engines (everything from a DC2 / Caterham 4-pot right up to an AMG V8 or an Aston V12 (Ferrari V12's are slightly different) - that almost predatory sound I would suggest hooks-in to our base instincts.


* Batteries tend to be rather heavy things! At least right now, and certainly if you want a sensible range before the compulsory 1-hour stop.

Edited by havoc on Wednesday 22 November 12:52


Edited by havoc on Wednesday 22 November 12:53

mwstewart

4,854 posts

113 months

Wednesday 22nd November 2017
quotequote all
GTEYE said:
kambites said:
I can't help but feel that we only like the noise internal combustion engines make because we're familiar with it and associate it with speed. Had cars been electric since inception and someone had suddenly come up with a noisy V8, I suspect we'd all think it sounded awful.

Frankly even having grown up loving the noise some engines make, I'd rather have an EV than most modern engines, even multi-cylinder "performance" ones sound either sterile or contrived. I'm certainly not going to miss the sound of the four-pot turbo in our family car. I'm not sure I'll ever go EV for my "fun" car but our white-goods motoring I really don't see a down-side.
+1 I can see a time in the not too distant future where the electric motor and associated sound becomes the norm for the masses, and someone reading this thread in 10-20 years time will wonder what all the fuss was about.

Do we miss Sony tape or CD Walkmans? Not really....
Completely disagree. As humans we are programmed to find certain sounds pleasing.

There are various synthesised sounds in music we may also like, which actually bare no resemblance to anything natural at all. It's just how we are - though some people are more interested in sound than others, of course.

I personally leave the car door open when I start my daily, as I love the sound - because it sounds nice. I also turn off the stereo a lot of the time for the same reason. Sound is incredibly important, and I can't see how electric will ever deliver on that particular aspect.

skyrover

11,528 posts

129 months

Wednesday 22nd November 2017
quotequote all
I'm going to buck the trend and state that the internal combustion is going nowhere anytime soon. You can quote me on that.

We are at least 50 years away from electric only... Probably longer.

RDMcG

11,957 posts

132 months

Wednesday 22nd November 2017
quotequote all
Globally we are living in an increasingly urban world. People are flocking to cities at a huge rate which means that the car will become less of an essential. The car is much less a rite of passage for kids now. The new essential is the Smartphone.
In an increasingly crowded world a bit of quiet makes sense. I mourn the change but am lucky enough to have experienced it for my whole life. I am still not an EV person but probably due to habit.