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 the 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 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.
The next iteration of electric vehicles will begin addressing these noise concerns and, slowly, the disadvantages of electric cars will be minimized. OEMs are already considering artificial white noise through the car’s speakers as a way to mask the unfamiliar sounds plaguing the interior of the vehicle.
As updates are implemented, engineers will have to consider the unintended consequences, especially producing changes that impact driving range, performance or even battery life.
As the electric engine is smaller, lighter and quieter than a traditional internal combustion engine, the design of the vehicle can be altered fundamentally. The foundation of the vehicles themselves may need to be constructed entirely different to ensure passenger comfort.
Simply put, if the driver of the electric vehicle is not comfortable, bringing the vehicle to mass market will prove monumentally difficult.
Click here to learn more about the challenges and solutions of bringing the electric vehicle to market.