Monthly Archives: August 2019

Why the disadvantages of electric cars include a lack of noise

Why the disadvantages of electric cars include lack of noise

Category : Blogs

Why the disadvantages of electric cars include a lack of noise

In our previous post, Why noise is one of the biggest problems with electric cars, we discussed some disadvantages of electric car technology, such as how the technology is reducing range anxiety and ensuring drivers feel confident their cars will take them wherever they needed to go and not worry about running out of power.

Overlooking the lack of noise an electric engine emits has caused safety issues with pedestrians and now potentially, adding artificial noise, can make a busy urban street sound like a Las Vegas casino. But what about the inside of the vehicle?

Engineers have considered the number of motors driving the wheels, controlling the HVAC system’s energy consumption and weight reduction. With no internal combustion engine roaring from under the hood, thinner panels could be used and less sound deadening components were needed, which helped increase range.

The interior of the vehicle is subject to the perils of quietude. Unlike the exterior of the vehicle where pedestrians meet safety concerns, the passengers are experiencing discomfort. As consumers started purchasing and driving electric vehicles, it soon became clear there was a noise issue that significantly hindered passenger comfort.

Where’s the ambiance?

Drivers and passengers inside a vehicle with an internal combustion engine have a consistent humming relieving them of the lower volume noise such as wind, road, the sounds from the HVAC and even the windshield wipers pushing rain away.

With the absence of a combustion engine, these low-level noises aren’t masked anymore and really become a nuisance. High-pitched noises from the HVAC fan, electric driveline or other electric components can sound like someone’s ears the day after a loud concert. Engineers need to study and conquer these sharp tones and use the technology available to hide them before production.

Unlike the noise of an airplane, an electric vehicle doesn’t have a broad range of noises jumbled together to create a soothing sound. A single tone can be annoying, in fact, according to a survey conducted by the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America; the high-frequency, tonal e-car sound without additional sound was considered “horrible.”

Good luck bringing a horrible sounding electric vehicle to the mass market.

Passenger comfort is critical, and improving the noise is one complex problem that needs to be solved. For instance, by trying to reduce the cooling system noise, the battery life could be negatively impacted and, thus, decrease the vehicle’s range.

Electric car technology must abate annoying sounds or provide an artificial noise to prevent passengers from noticing the noises they may never have known were there in the first place.

By The Author –


Why noise is one of the biggest problems with electric cars

Category : Blogs

Why noise is one of the biggest problems with electric cars

Imagine your company is engineering the next line of electric vehicles. You create technical specifications that reduce range anxiety, you’ve perfected the colors that pop and entice customers to buy and with battery technology advancement, you’ve priced it right.

But there are problems with electric cars.

Because the electric vehicle engine emits no noise, pedestrians are more likely to be struck by an electric vehicle. A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicated that hybrid and electric vehicles are 57 percent more likely to cause accidents with cyclists, and 37 percent more likely to cause an accident with pedestrians, than a standard internal combustion engine vehicle.

Countries are requiring the quietest cars emit a sound to warn those around the vehicle of its presence.

Now, imagine after creating the ideal electric vehicle, the customers reject it based on the noise it emits. What if your vehicle’s noise is too strange or annoying?

This is just one of the many perils facing the quiet electric vehicle.

Why is there a quiet issue?

The goal of successfully getting an electric vehicle to market, one that a consumer would be interested in and enjoying, was about improving range. In a world lacking in electric vehicle infrastructure, solving range anxiety would allow customers to feel more comfortable driving the electric vehicles to-and-from work and longer trips beyond.

Engineers focused on vehicle architecture including the number of motors driving the wheels, managing the HVAC system’s energy consumption and finding ways to reduce weight, such as using thinner panels and less sound deadening components to provide better mileage. Without the roar of a combustion engine, there was no need to reduce noise.

Noise issues in the after-market use was simply a problem no one had anticipated and the realization that noise was a critical aspect in-vehicle comfort and safety has come late in the process. The unintended consequence of having a quieter car is the noises, or lack thereof, concerning both passengers and pedestrians.

Exterior noise

Without a sound or signal of an electric vehicle’s presence, the likelier it is to be involved in an accident with a pedestrian or cyclist.

“The greatest risks associated with electric vehicles are when they are traveling at low speeds, such as in urban areas with lower limits, as the noise from tires and the road surface, and aerodynamic noise, are minimal at those speeds,” said Kevin Clinton, road safety adviser at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.

The pedestrians most at risk are the blind, where studies have suggested that 93 percent indicated problems with electric vehicles.

“Guide dogs are all about giving people confidence and independence, and a near miss or an incident with a vehicle of this type could really set people back a long way,” said James White, campaign manager at the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.

Along with the quiet on the streets, electric vehicles pose a significant risk in parking lots or near driveways where pedestrians may be jogging, shuffling kids to-and-from a store or walking a dog. With no engine noise, there’s no warning other than the reverse lights on the car.

Governments are now creating rules that require electric vehicles to emit noises for public safety. Starting in July 2019, the European Union will require all new electric and hybrid vehicles sold in Europe to emit noise. As of 2021, older vehicles will need to be retrofitted with a sound to warn pedestrians.

However, there is no one specific sound a car needs to make so the concept of city streets sounding like a Las Vegas casino isn’t far-fetched. Imagine every car wailing like a truck backing up. And when was the last time you paid attention to a car alarm? Sensory overload due to countless warning signals is likely to desensitize awareness and the efficiency of the signals.

As the electric vehicle consumer market is about to ramp up, the possibility of multiple chirps, buzzes and tones are going to be heard on the roadways, at least when the vehicle is traveling under 20 miles-per-hour (an approximate estimate where the artificial noise would cease and the natural noises of the tires and the road noise would be sufficient). Can we truly expect the visually-impaired to keep track of every different noise an electric video emits?

The likely noise will sound along the lines of a “futuristic” whir or melodious humming. Examples include Nissan’s singing ‘Canto’ at the Tokyo Auto Show and Jaguar’s space-like drone.

At a recent shareholder meeting, Elon Musk offered his thoughts on these sounds.

“I think the sensible, ideal thing long-term is to have proximity sensors that direct a pleasant-sounding noise in the direction of where somebody is walking — so, therefore, it’s the least amount of noise, and it’s not annoying, and it’s only going to where it needs to go,” he said.

Sensor technology, with the continued innovation of autonomous vehicles, will be a likely long-term solution – but short-term electric vehicle interest must be managed. On top of that, determining the difference between a pleasant sound and an unpleasant sound is subjective at best.

Then again, some like the roar of an engine, others prefer a subtler acceleration sound.

Countering Musk’s point is Dan Edmunds, director of vehicle testing at Edmunds, who thought directional sensor technology would be “more trouble than it’s worth” due to the developmental issues facing autonomous vehicle manufacturers.

“That sounds more expensive, frankly,” he said. “It seems like that just adds unnecessary complexity.”

For the time being, since the ‘autonomous’ option isn’t there yet, the noise generated will be omnidirectional and will probably need to mimic a combustion engine or at least be comparable since that is what people are used to hearing in the cities.

Until, or unless, rules and regulations dictate the specific sounds that must emit from electric vehicles, automakers will have to engineer sound development that effectively communicates the presence of an electric vehicle without becoming too cumbersome or easily ignored.

By the Author –


Building an electric car means nothing unless drivers accept them

Building an electric car means nothing unless drivers accept them

Category : Blogs

Building an electric car means nothing unless drivers accept them

Building an electric car is part of the biggest transformation the auto industry has experienced in a hundred years. Three trends are driving the transformation:

1. Vehicle electrification
2. Autonomous vehicles and versions of autonomy, like automated driving assist systems (ADAS)
3. Shared mobility, where passengers buy vehicle miles rather than buying your own vehicle

All three trends interconnect and, at some point in the near future, we’ll probably be driving vehicles that we don’t own, are electrified and are autonomous. Overall, electrification is a trend that seems destined to happen, and that’s one reason why so many government agencies around the world are supporting and pushing for electric vehicles.

But, how do we get there?

Building an electric car

As the electrification, autonomy and shared mobility continue aligning and consumer interest increases, several players are spending real money to push technological advancement, as each one attempts to gain a competitive edge. These include traditional OEMs, newer companies like Tesla, and hundreds of startup companies, especially in Asia that are deeply involved in producing electrified, autonomous vehicles. All are competing to bring an electric vehicle to the consumer in the hope of dominating this emerging market.

What is driving this broad spectrum of hopeful players is the chance to jump on this trend with a product that’s cheaper and easier to develop than a conventional one. That’s why you see a lot of electric vehicle startups entering the automotive industry. These new companies will push the established automotive companies to be better, get to market faster and push innovation further.

Back in the 1990s, General Motors started the EV1 program, which had experienced good customer acceptance for early adopters and critics. This vehicle program never panned out because these expensive electric vehicles appealed to a very small group of mostly environmental evangelists who could afford the steep cost and didn’t mind the woefully short driving range of 80 to 100 miles.

Range anxiety puts the brakes on sales

Over the past decade, with government incentives and growing environmental concerns, electric vehicle technology has become a product offering with true potential. But the same old problems have kept being raised and had yet to be solved: range anxiety and cost.

Range anxiety is real. Drivers worry if they can get from point A to point B on a charge. Can they take a family vacation in an electric vehicle? What about the impact of weather, traffic and aging batteries on battery range? Only when the industry can successfully address those anxieties will the world embrace electric vehicles.

Battery technology is key

Technology is as much a driving force as anything, especially the battery, which is the heart and soul of an electric vehicle. Big technological changes are helping to significantly improve energy density in the battery. This will ease anxieties as vehicles will go further on a single charge and charging times are reduced.

Year-after-year the battery technologies are getting better translating to higher range on a charge and lower battery costs, making a vehicle a more affordable investment. For example, the 2011 Nissan Leaf was priced at $33,780 and provided a 100-mile range per charge compared to the 2019 Nissan Leafpriced to begin at $29,990 with a 226-mile range per charge.

Consumers are more accepting of electrification as range and cost improve; the 2018 Nissan sold almost 5,000 more Leafs than in 2011. Although people are beginning to see electric vehicles as an affordable, reliable alternative, the transformation still has a way to go before they’re economically feasible for most of the driving population.

What will accelerate the advancement of electric vehicles is when they’re cheaper to own and operate than internal combustion vehicles. Until the total cost of ownership or cents per mile gets to the parity level with internal combustion vehicles, drivers will remain hesitant to make the personal investment.

What the future of electric vehicles means to the world

I believe we have a responsibility to the globe to make vehicle electrification and autonomy happen. Autonomous vehicles have the potential to save millions of lives and electrification will make the world better by cleaning up our cities, our environment and, when done right, will leave a much smaller carbon footprint. Plus, electric cars really deliver a higher quality driving experience. They’re fun, enjoyable and quiet, so once people drive them and experience the benefits of electric vehicles, customer acceptance should increase.

It’s an exciting time, watching the transformation of the automotive industry as it moves from the internal combustion engines to full electrification.

In our next blog, I’ll go further in discussing the challenges and benefits of building the hardware and software of the electric vehicle. In the meantime, learn more about what else is happening with electric vehicles.

By the author – Dave Lauzun