Ferrari and Dodge Fine-Tune Artificial Noise for Electric Cars

Brands famous for roaring combustion engines reckon customers will want to hear more than the quiet whine of electric motors.

(Bloomberg) — High-performance car aficionados revere the roar of eight-, 10- and 12-cylinder engines. As these rowdy beasts approach obsolescence, manufacturers including Stellantis and Ferrari are betting customers will want to keep making commotion with electric cars.

When Stellantis unveiled its Dodge Charger Daytona SRT Concept in August, the muscle-car brand debuted an industry-first exhaust system for EVs. “No, Dodge hasn’t found a way for an electric car to pump equal parts engine noise and CO2 into the air,” Car and Driver wrote. It designed a system to amplify the near-silent hum of electric motors into “a 126-decibel cacophony worthy of the SRT badge.”

Ferrari too is working on a way to create distinctive noises tied to the actual performance of an electric-car powertrain, enabling drivers to not just feel but also hear realistic vehicle feedback. Analysts at Oddo BHF last month flagged that the Italian supercar maker had filed for a patent for its device, which could go into its first fully electric model coming in 2025.

While the company has declined to comment on the device specifically, CEO Benedetto Vigna believes sound will be essential to any Ferrari, including those powered by battery.

“I’ve no doubt that our electric powertrains will give clients the same thrills” as combustion engines, Vigna said in an interview. “The point is how to extract the best emotion from the use of this technology, giving something unique to the clients.”

Automakers have long fine-tuned the pitch that projects from their combustion powertrains, to the point that car buffs can name that tune when a particular generation Ford Mustang rolls up, or distinguish between a Lamborghini or Bugatti blaring by.

Unsurprisingly, enthusiasts with strong feelings about how a marque or model should sound have been unsparing in their early assessment of the Dodge concept’s mountain lion-like audio profile. Brand boss Tim Kuniskis told Motor Trend and Road & Track that much of the initial feedback about the Charger Daytona SRT Concept’s growl was negative, and that Dodge will keep refining it.

The distinct sounds brands like Dodge and Ferrari are working on are much higher stakes than Tesla’s gimmicky “Fart Mode” that’s good for a laugh and little else. Performance-car makers will have their work cut out for them enticing customers to switch to a new type of drivetrain likely to render vehicles even more expensive.

Because EVs can barely be heard when going slowly, regulators in Europe, the US and China have been requiring that they come with a built-in sound system that alerts bicyclists and pedestrians. Carmakers have a bit more room to maneuver with different sounds when EVs go faster and emit more tire and wind noise. Some have even turned to creative outsiders to give their vehicles a sonic edge.

Jaguar tapped electronic musician Richard Devine to design sounds for its first full EV, the i-Pace. Volkswagen hired Leslie Mandoki, a German-Hungarian music producer who has worked with Phil Collins and Chaka Khan, for the ID.3. BMW teamed with Oscar-winning film score composer Hans Zimmer — his works include Hollywood blockbusters Gladiator and The Lion King — to create special dins for its electric cars, including a spaceship-like hum when powering up.

“Ever since the industrial revolution and we’ve had combustion engines, the sound of cities — the sound of our lives — have been dictated by that,” Zimmer said in a video on the project. “Now, suddenly, we have the opportunity to change the sonic landscape of this whole planet.”

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