The symphony of the future

Electric cars do not output any sound themselves. At most a quiet hum. Dr. Ralf Kunkel, Head of Audi Acoustics, and Nick Mason, drummer for Pink Floyd, have a few ideas about the future sound.

Dr. Ralf Kunkel – Head of Audi Acoustics

Instead of reducing engine noise and transforming it into a pleasant noise level, Dr. Ralf Kunkel is currently working on getting the electrically powered models of the Audi e-tron family to make any noise at all.

“Until now, pedestrians could simply localize a normal combustion engine by its sound. This is different with electric cars. At speeds under 25 km/h you can hardly hear it at all,” explains Dr. Kunkel. “Of course, that is associated with certain safety risks. Above all for people who rely on sounds, such as those with visual challenges.”

But what sound should be used for orientation here? A beautiful and full quattro sound? Or the potent roar of a Le Mans winner?

“In the future, we will not simply be able to rely on the sound patterns of the past. A petrol engine should sound like a petrol engine. A diesel like a diesel. Every car has its own character. What is essential to us is that an electric car should make an unmistakable sound."

“I find that the sound used for vehicles of the future in science fiction movies is an interesting approach,” admits Dr. Kunkel. And he refers to a blockbuster in which an electrically powered Audi inspired the fantasy of the year 2035 back in 2004. “The Audi RSQ from the Hollywood movie “I, Robot” reveals just a bit of what might lie ahead.”

Nick Mason – drummer for Pink Floyd

The drummer Nick Mason, founder of the legendary band Pink Floyd and a first-class sound creator makes the following recommendation on a visit to Audi Design in Ingolstadt: “Perhaps customers could download the sound for their electric car like a ring tone.” However, a look at today's current hit list of ring tones is not especially promising.

"Is an Audi even an Audi without engine sound?” asks the competent race car driver in the discussion session. The Audi design team presents a movie for :Nick Mason, in which the highlights of Audi racing history are shown with a soundtrack of high-tech sound that comes very close to what Dr. Kunkel imagines.

Mason is speechless; the effect is fantastic. A designer from the team casually expresses a great truth: “When driving is fun, you don't even think about the sound after a few seconds. It is simply there, and it is magnificent."

But Nick Mason offers one more small tip as a joke. “Actually, all you need is string and a tin can. Then you would have your sound.”