AutoRenault: at the forefront of electric sound

Renault: at the forefront of electric sound

Life is full of paradoxes, also in the automotive world. Electric mobility reaches our streets with the aim of reducing pollution, also acoustic , that derives from traffic. However, the calm and silence that accompanies this type of zero emission vehicles has led to problems of safety and coexistence with pedestrians , who are used to relying on a useless sense today. Run over accidents were repeated because of the low noise level of the hybrids, which is why some kind of sound or alert was forced to be mandatory. However, firms such as Renault were already working on the development of VSPs (Vehicle Sound Pedestrian) in their concept cars. It’s funny how silence can have a voice and, about that paradox, we spoke with Lauren Worms, Head of Renault Group’s audio strategy.

From the beginning of the creation of Renault electrics, the French firm asked itself a series of passionate questions about the silence of its vehicles: How to warn pedestrians that a vehicle whose engine makes practically no noise is approaching? How to produce an effective and at the same time pleasant warning sound? How to create a sound design for electric mobility that is also unique to the brand? A series of questions that they had to answer in order to create a referential and characteristic sound . A process in which the Institute for acoustic / music research and coordination (Ircam), a partner of the diamond for decades, had a lot to say.

Electrification is a fact, so that the sound of this propulsion also happens to be. For this reason, we spoke with Laurent Worms, in charge of finding a way to “alert by reassuring”, a priority in sound design that “opens the way to many other exciting opportunities”, they tell us from Renault. A path that started from the first electric concept cars presented in the automotive shows, and which became a reality in the first Renault Zoe of 2012. The slogan of its ad was the following: “ I am electric, I am avant-garde, I am a Renault “. A palpable example of the need to associate that sound with the firm’s concern for people and their identity: “The idea is of course to warn pedestrians, but without scaring them, and at the same time to associate this alert in a positive way with the car electric and to the brand, ”says Laurent Worms.

From sheet music to car

Renault is immersed in the new generation of electric models, which have ended up being a reality with the Mégane E-Tech Electric and the R5 Prototype that, we hope, will be produced at some point. The sound of these cars has been developed in collaboration with Ircam and its Perception and Sound Design (PDS) team , renowned for their vision and precision. The result has been a most curious teamwork, capable of involving distinctive professional fields and experts of all kinds.

A partnership that is not new for Renault, given that the collaboration between the Renault Group and the Ircam began in 1994 , long before Renault switched to electric. Hence the creation of a department led by Lauren Worms, who explains it as follows: “My role is to set a course. I am guided by the richness of what our clients tell us and by current trends to write the sound specifications, describing the environments and what we intend to evoke in accordance with the DNA of the brand. “

How does the sound develop?

As the firm explains, the first stage of creating an electric sound tries to understand the technical and ergonomic needs of this noise, which must be functional but also identitarian. Later on you have to translate the intentions set out in a “brief” making sounds using real instruments , recording the result and inventing patterns from scratch with the experience you already have from other projects.

For example, in the Ircam they know that: “a major chord or consonant will create, better than another, a feeling of tranquility or joy… Conversely, a dissonance, albeit slight, in this type of chord, will suggest immediately a tension … and put on alert. This duality is necessarily interesting for a sound like a VSP ”. The role of the manager is to ensure the coherence of that sound, as well as making the final decision together with the rest of the Renault leadership. As Worms puts it: “My dream would be that the sound signature of future electric Renault evokes an emotion similar to the imprint of a seductive perfume , while contributing to a better sound ecology for our cities of the future.”

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