"Careful: electric car approaching"

5 October 2017
Electric cars proving too quiet - safety technology from Hamburg Metropolitan Region generates sound, enhances safety and driving experience

Kendrion Kuhnke has been a technology partner of the automobile industry for many years now. The Malente-based experts specialize in systems that give vehicles sound profiles to match the character of cars. Such sound systems are used, e.g. to make a sporty compact car sound exactly the way drivers expect it to sound.

Sound solutions for electric drive

As the age of electromobility picks up speed, this proven technology, already used by many automobile manufacturers, is gaining a totally new meaning. Electric vehicles have one major advantage but with double-edged consequences. An electric drive system provides full power right from the start and without emitting any excess noise. Although most drivers like the sound of silence, many complain that electric vehicles do not give them sufficient feedback during acceleration and deceleration. The usual acoustics are no longer prevalent which can be a big problem not only in a city when the driver often does not realize the car’s actual speed. 

Sound designers aiming for safety 

Silent cars can also be dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists, who cannot tell when an electric vehicle is approaching. The usual hum of a combustion engine nor any other noise is heard. This can be a big problem among children who have not yet learned to perceive noise. Acoustic Vehicle Alerting System (AVAS) is providing a solution to such problems. The term describes a new variant of the well-known vehicle sound-systems designed especially for electric vehicles. 

Keno Körner, Automotive Key Account Manager at Kendrion Kuhnke, explained: “Such systems in conventional vehicles provide an acoustic design for a car model that contributes to an enhanced driving experience. Systems in electric vehicles conform not only to the latest legal requirements for speed-related acoustics. They also mask all the ambient noise that is more noticeable due to the missing engine noise.”

E-cars and combustion engines 

To this end, the company has developed a special sound actuator which acts as a seismic transducer and causes the vehicle’s entire outer surface to vibrate. The extremely compact unit generates an acoustic profile comparable to that of a conventional automobile with combustion engine. While these soundwaves are perceived mainly outside the vehicle, they also contribute to the acoustic environment inside. 

As the actuator activates the entire body of the car, the resulting sound is omnipresent. It cannot be localized and is perceived as part of the car’s expected sound emission. This is emphasized by the fact that the characteristics of the sound change in relation to speed, acceleration and deceleration. 

Innovative technology from Hamburg Metropolitan Region 

However, nobody knows what kind of sound buyers of electric vehicles expect and as a result car manufacturers are still experimenting with sound patterns. For safety reasons, all new electric vehicles launched on the market from 2019 must be equipped with such a sound system. 

Kendrions’s sound actuator is likely to impact future generations of electric vehicles. It meets both future legal requirements and provides an ambient sound that contributes to the overall experience of driving an electric vehicle. The driver gets audible feedback and manufacturers can customize sound designs to determine the internal and external sound characteristics of a vehicle. 

“Good automotive sound must be perceived subconsciously only. It enhances the overall driving experience without the driver and passengers realizing why. For this reason, we develop automotive sound systems that are as inconspicuous and efficient as possible,” said Körner. So far, only insiders know that the Malente-based automotive sound specialists count among especially innovative companies in the Hamburg Metropolitan Region. 


Sources and further information

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