Electric vehicles represent an advance in the fight against pollution, also acoustics. Residents of cities such as Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia or Malaga have become accustomed to urban noise, but it also has negative consequences. With the arrival of the first hybrid cars, capable of driving in electric mode, some drawbacks also appeared. Its silent circulation has become a double-edged sword, since many pedestrians do not pay attention and can be run over when lost . From the beginning of the development of its first electrics, Renault has wanted to pay special attention to this issue. Is it possible to warn pedestrians without making a noise that scares them? The objective was clear: to create an effective and pleasant sound that improves the safety of the electric car for other road users. Laurent Worms, Head of the Renault group’s audio strategy , sums it up like this: “What stands out on board an electric car is its silence. That is why we want to give voice to this silence . “
It may seem somewhat contradictory. The electric car is driven differently precisely because of the calm and tranquility produced by the silence of its engines. It is an ecological propulsion not only for the planet, but also for our ears and head. However, safety is ahead. What’s more, drivers also appreciate being audible in an urban environment, which improves their detection and avoids unnecessary scares. This notice has been called VSP (Vehicule Sound Pedestrian, or warning sound for pedestrians) and for a year it has been mandatory in Europe, so it is part of its development parameters.
Sound of silence
Before becoming an obligation, Renault already considered the sound of electrics as a necessity. Since its first electric concept cars, the diamond firm has thought about this crucial detail. For example, with the launch of the Renault Zoe in 2021 with the series version, whose warning sound had to mean ‘I am electric, I am avant-garde, I am a Renault’. A slogan that has been improving in favor of a more modern identity in line with the urban environment.
Currently, the Mégane eVision and R5 Prototype prototypes try to give continuity to this story, offering an exterior sound developed to “warn pedestrians, of course, but without frightening them, and at the same time associate this alert in a positive way with the electric car and the brand, ”says Laurent Worms. This aspect has been devised in renowned studios and laboratories working in silence, such as Ircam (Institute for acoustic / music research and coordination, Paris) and its Perception and Sound Designs (PDS) research team.
How did it develop?
To create the sound of electric silence, Renault have relied on Nicolas Misdariis, research director and PDS team leader, and Andrea Cera, composer and sound designer associated with the PDS team. At first they had to understand the industrial needs, taking this project from a technical and functional point of view but also identity: What personality is required and desired for an exterior sound of a Renault ? That was the main question and after some meetings in which ideas, images and sound references were exchanged, it was time to work on the final design.
“The objective is to respond to an essential need in terms of sound ecology : to make sound the least intrusive inside the vehicle, for more discretion and comfort.” Nicolas Misdariis commented. With that clear aspect, it is necessary to choose the instruments and apply the basic harmonic rules, such as that a major chord or consonant will generate more tranquility and joy . After stages of investigation, proposals were presented that tried to reconcile all opinions, without being unanimous. Laurent Worms has the last word: “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.” We will hear it in the future Mégane E-Tech Electric.