By on January 8, 2013

NHTSA is proposing to make it mandatory that hybrid cars and EVs have the ability to emit a sound when traveling below 18 mph on electric power, as a means of warning pedestrians and cyclists. The system is said to add about $30 to the cost of each vehicle, and will no doubt tie up bureaucrats for months as they debate just what kind of tone will best protect the public from the horror of low-speed injuries. So why don’t we make life easier for them and decide ourselves?

I”m going to nominate the weird burping noise made by a koala as my own favorite; koalas, like hybrids and EVs, are slow and non-threatening, but few know that the koala actually makes a strange, low bellowing noise.

Compare that to the higher-pitched chirp or the low humming seen on cars like the Chevrolet Volt, Nissan Leaf and Toyota Prius. It’s a bit more masculine and menacing, isn’t it? Yet at the same time, it won’t really give anyone a fright like it would if you used a sound clip from a Norwegian death metal concert.

 

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121 Comments on “QOTD: What Sound Should Hybrids And EVs Make Below 18 MPH?...”


  • avatar
    jaybird124

    Circus music, hands down.

  • avatar

    The Fisker Karma makes a pretty cool noise; I say we go with that.

    Or you could just loop Fran Drescher’s laugh…that’d give them a right scare!

  • avatar
    Advance_92

    Anti-lag.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    it should say: SMUG ALERT

  • avatar
    narcoossee

    The sound the Jetson’s car makes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QdWswvLPdE0

  • avatar
    bfisch81

    one word: Trololo

  • avatar
    dutch45810

    How about Curly Howard’s “Woo woo woo woo”? I would soitenly never get tired of that…
    http://hark.com/clips/zdsnsjyvld-woo-woo-nyuk-nyuk

  • avatar
    nezromatron

    This. http://youtu.be/jK9dCd1DXZI?t=41s

  • avatar
    nickeled&dimed

    My vote is for a recorded human voice sort of like that one Dutch Dominoes Delivery scooter “Domino’s Pizza Safe Sound”
    youtube: /watch?feature=player_embedded&v=n17B_uFF4cA

  • avatar
    gslippy

    The Cummins turbodiesel sound would be nice.

  • avatar
    Darkhorse

    How about a recording of John Stewart crying “Global warming is real! Global warming is real!”

  • avatar
    tmkreutzer

    Ricky Martin’s “Livin the vida loca”

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    On a related topic, I take very seriously the motorcycle bumper sticker saying that “Fat pipes save lives.”

    However, given the fact that obnoxiously amplified motorcycle exhaust noises are intermittent — they only protect the driver when accelerating, I propose instead a law that will protect motorcycle riders more effectively.

    All motorcycles should be required by law to continually blair a recording of the driver saying the following statement: “I am an old, overweight man so desperate for attention that I risk my life trying to pilot this motorcycle. Please notice me and pretend I am a straight, young, virile man.”

    • 0 avatar
      Slow_Joe_Crow

      Please don’t inflict that on me. I ride a BMW, and a properly tuned stock stock /5 is almost inaudible at low speed

    • 0 avatar
      redliner

      My sports bike is nearly silent at idle, but after the baffles open up at around 7,000 rpm, it’s VERY loud, but of course, by then, your going so fast the problem is not others crashing into you, but rather you crashing into others.

      Your description is typical of many cruiser owners. You know, the kind that wear short sleeve shirts and leather vests with “skull cap” barely-DOT-compliant helmets trying to pretend they are “hard” and “tough.” The kind of riders who don’t wave back at you when you send a friendly wave their way.

      I’m a year around rider (unless it’s snowing) and I firmly believe that loud pipes don’t save lives. They just annoy the crap out of people. Being a smart, well prepared, defensive and proactive rider… that, saves lives.

    • 0 avatar
      shaker

      I was once at a Harley dealer with a buddy, and the only bike on the floor that intrigued me was a new, silver V-Rod – and it was “on sale”. I asked the (very nice young lady) salesperson why it was discounted, and she told me that they didn’t sell, because they were so quiet. She said that they sounded like “the Jetson’s car”.

  • avatar
    brettc

    The Jetson’s car sound is what it should be. I actually lived across from a trailer park a few years ago and there was a Mazda 626 that someone in the park owned that actually made that sound. No idea what was wrong with the car, but it was awesome.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      +1. When this subject first came up (I believe in terms of the Leaf) I figured that this was the only real sound for an electric car. Enough future in it that it makes sense, and the noise is both noticeable while not being obnoxious.

      • 0 avatar
        Hank

        I’ll second the motion, if we’re limited to one sound. The market should be allowed an amount of customization (within reason, people could go real stupid, real fast with it, and the police have more important things to do than regulate some EV’s aural grunts).

        I’d take five settings:

        1. Jetson’s
        2. Sherman tank, engine & tread squeal (Ray LaHood just had me wire tapped for that)
        3. V8
        4. V12
        5. Footsteps…for mischief in the Wal-Mart parking lot.

      • 0 avatar
        Wabbit3

        Sherman tank, engine & tread squeal – Brilliant! I bet if we send that idea to Top Gear they might choose to use it for a segment.

        I can totally hear (see) it now, rolling through a quaint downtown street sounding like a Sherman to the tune of “A Bridge Too Far” coming from the stereo…

  • avatar

    The sound of the last little bit of hope escaping a human body

  • avatar
    Highway27

    Why not look to the construction industry for help with this. They are switching from the high frequency *beep beep* sounds to white noise ‘growler’ sounds for the vehicle warning sounds. While high frequencies are more directional, they also carry farther and echo significantly, reducing their effectiveness as directional locating sources. Also, because they carry farther, they annoy many more people.

    This NIH article actually talks about this very topic:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3018517/

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      This is a little off-topic, but what is the point of that beeping noise? Was there once a problem with people hanging out in close proximity to the back of operational heavy machinery that was solved by installing a noise so annoying that nobody would want to get within a few blocks of it? Also, wouldn’t the elimination of people who can’t recognize the danger of that sort of location be a net benefit?

  • avatar
    azmtbkr81

    Hemi with a lumpy cam or squeaky hamster wheel, either would be be entertaining.

  • avatar
    MarkySparky

    Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell, but played backwards

  • avatar
    LBJs Love Child

    Like the cars in Gattaca.

  • avatar

    The more things change…

    From Wikipedia:

    Red flag law in the UK
    Main article: Locomotive Acts

    In the United Kingdom, the Locomotive Acts (also known as Red Flag Laws) was a policy requiring self-propelled vehicles to be led by a pedestrian waving a red flag or carrying a lantern to warn bystanders of the vehicle’s approach. The Red Flag Law was repealed in 1896, by which time the internal combustion engine was well into its infancy.[1]
    Red flag laws in the US

    In the United States, the state of Vermont passed a similar flurry of Red Flag Laws in 1894. The most infamous of the Red Flag Laws was enacted in Pennsylvania circa 1896, when legislators unanimously passed a bill through both houses of the state legislature, which would require all motorists piloting their “horseless carriages”, upon chance encounters with cattle or livestock to (1) immediately stop the vehicle, (2) “immediately and as rapidly as possible… disassemble the automobile,” and (3) “conceal the various components out of sight, behind nearby bushes” until equestrian or livestock is sufficiently pacified.[1] The bill did not become law, as Pennsylvania’s governor used an executive veto.

  • avatar
    otter

    The opening section of Eddie Grant’s “Electric Avenue.”

  • avatar
    FJ60LandCruiser

    Soviet national anthem, heavy on the drunken men’s chorus.

  • avatar
    Geekcarlover

    If the government only requires an audible alert, there could be a niche business in downloadable sounds. Hemi with glass packs, V-twin “potatoing”, basket of mewing kittens, tires screeching as brakes lock up, Hare Krishnas chanting, it’s your car, let your safety alert be your own.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      While I applaud the individualism of a multitude of apps, the feds are going to insist on a single standard sound that can be associated with an oncoming electric vehicle. Otherwise, we’d have everything from a rooster crowing, to a rolling bowling ball, to a blaring vuvuzela.

      Although my first choice would be a recording of Queen singing “Another One Bites The Dust”, the sound would have to be mechanical, so a recording of a GM Iron Duke would be my second choice. I’m sure electric car owners would get used to it – millions of GM customers did. If that’s too harsh, there’s always the unique transmission whine of an Iveco milk truck.

  • avatar
    rdchappell

    Yakity Sax.

  • avatar
    Quentin

    The noise that my Prius v makes is pretty neat. It mimics the typical SciFi spaceship/UFO sound. It fits well considering the setup of the IP has a very SciFi feel to it.

    Can we force noises on maniac drivers? I had a Dodge Ram come up and tailgate me on the interstate as I was passing a line of semis (2 lanes in each direction). My cruise was at 72, but I sped up to 75 as I was passing because the Ram was filling my rear view mirror. As I put my signal on and started merging right to open up the left lane for 75-isn’t-fast-enough (I always make sure I have the car I’m passing in my mirror before I move over to ensure clearance), he hammers the gas and darts to my right trying to pass on my right. Halfway across, I swerve back to the left lane and the tribal armbanded maniac passes on my right, screaming at me, my wife, and my 5 month old daughter. He then pulled off the exit that was less than 2 miles away. Yes, he saved SOOOOO much time by nearly wrecking the lot of us.

    • 0 avatar
      NMGOM

      Hi Quentin…

      I was really amused by your tale. I have experienced the inverse.
      I have an old ’96 Dodge Ram 1500, which I drive slowly around the city here. But I have been amazed at the number of Prii (and other similar species) that suddenly rush out to pass me on the left, but then put on their brakes to make a right-hand turn, about 100-200 feet later! (^_^)…

      ———-

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        I’m also puzzled by those that swoop around my 20K lbs truck in their little cars, only to slam on the brakes to make a right turn. At that second, I think maybe they’re also getting pushed along by those behind them or cars are packed too tightly behind me. Nope, we’re usually the only ones on the road.

        Aside from being extremely rude, are they just not aware of the laws of physics? I know they’re not intentionally trying to get rammed because I can probably get around them if I had to.

        I saw a lady do this to a tandem-trailer sand hauler on a very busy highway. He was haulin’ some serious ass as they tend to do and she just had to pull into a gas station at super close range. Then the guy at the pump started backing up and blocked her entry. She stopped (and left her ass end hanging out) directly in the simi’s path… The sand hauler locked up all 18 and it started to jack-knife. He then went back on the throttle, straightened the whole thing out and drove around her sorry ass after everyone else gave him room. The confused/stupid look on her face was priceless! She could’ve also drove on to the decorative gravel landscape that had like a 2″ thick border.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        ,,,,,,I was really amused by your tale. I have experienced the inverse.
        I have an old ’96 Dodge Ram 1500, which I drive slowly around the city here. But I have been amazed at the number of Prii (and other similar species) that suddenly rush out to pass me on the left, but then put on their brakes to make a right-hand turn, about 100-200 feet later! (^_^)………

        Further proof that a$$holes drive all types of vehicles….and for the record, I would disable any noisemaker that came on my hybrid even though it is provided by work.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    How about just modifying crosswalk signals to tell you to “Get yo a$$ out of the street” Sheesh…another NHTSA nanny-state intrusion; we need more quiet in this world not more noise.

  • avatar
    Freddy M

    Alternating looped recording of Jeremy Clarkson yelling “Poweeeeeeeeerrrrrrrr!” and “Get out of the way, stupid man!”

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Silly. Today’s car engines already make virtually no sound that’s audible to pedestrians when not at or near WOT and absolutely silent when coasting. I mean their engines are not heard over the car pushing through the wind or the road noise from the tires.

    Louder tires might be the better answer, but still silly.

    • 0 avatar
      protomech

      This. If it’s honestly motivated from a desire to create a certain noise pollution floor, then why restrict it to hybrids and EV? Noise pollution for everyone!

      Bicycles too. A 200 pound individual on a pedal bike @ 20 mph is going to hurt about as much as me on a 340 pound motorcycle @ 15 mph.

      If EVs have to have a sound, then go for Quest For The Holy Grail coconuts or else a TIE fighter.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        Exactly. All newer cars are hazardous to pedestrians so why stop at EVs and hybrids?

        I thought the same thing about bicycles. I share a hiking trail with mountain bikers and they’ll surprise the hell out of you on the fast/blind S-turns. They should at least have a card thru the spokes or ring one of those classic tricycle bells.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      If you’ve ever ridden in an EV, it’s shocking how quiet they are. When my Leaf has passengers, the silence is very awkward for them at first. We’ve been culturally conditioned to be more comfortable with engine noise from a car, both inside and outside.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      Exactly what I was thinking. I mentioned this artificial noise concept to a buddy once and he thought I was being a jerk for not caring about blind people when I ridiculed it. So the next time we were out on the sidewalk and a car approached I asked him if he could hear the engine. Nope, just the tires. But that was on a 30 mph road. Maybe there is a benefit at parking lot speeds.

  • avatar
    toplessFC3Sman

    Star Wars Pod Racer noises! One of two (the other being Natalie Portman) good things about Episode 1. Plenty of variety to differentiate brand & performance, still very vehicle-like

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    what kind of sound would penetrate through the headphones the pedestrians are wearing as they are crossing the street staring at their facebook updates?

    a diesel sound would certainly be ironic, especially if accompanied with a vibro device connected to the steering column.

  • avatar
    oldowl

    We have a 2010 Prius, and with two 90-degree turns in the tree-lined road to our house, we need to drive slowly–which means very quietly. When we come upon the backs of neighbors out for a walk, we have a choice (A) Sound the horn, but it’s not very friendly to make them jump. (B) Run them over, very unfriendly. (C) Slow down even more, put the front windows down, and say, not shout, “HI.” That’s our usual procedure. When maneuvering in shopping center parking lots or other close quarters, we have to be very alert and cautious so that we are not the crasher or crashee. Warning noise to add? Maybe a soft dog bark.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    A recording of a DB 92 Civic fitted with a fart bag muffler.

  • avatar
    levi

    Sound of an old Ford starter relay feverishly clicking away.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Roseann’s version of the Star Spangled banner.

  • avatar
    Slow_Joe_Crow

    A friend with a Nissan Leaf wants a system like downloadable ring tones, so he could have a Harley, a steam locomotive or whatever else seized his whim.
    If it has to be a standard,than hybrids should get “send in the clowns” or “you’re so vain”, and electrics should play “the sounds of silence”.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      I’m told my Leaf has a sound built into it, but I can’t distinguish it from anything other than a lower frequency version of the “jet taxiing” sound it normally makes at higher speeds.

      It will sneak up on people very easily. I have to be aware of this in parking lots; I’ve received some nasty looks when pedestrians are surprised.

  • avatar
    crm114

    What’s wrong with chicken noises? Everybody loves chickens.

    Boc boc boc boc boc boc boc boc, Bwak!

  • avatar
    Zackman

    A friend’s new Sonata hybrid is absolutely quiet if you drive real slow.

    Perhaps cars need some sort of noise – I like the bird-chirping sound at intersection crosswalks. First heard that sound in San Jose when on a business trip years ago. Made sense to me.

    If the chirping sound is for the birds – pun intended – how about a classic Chrysler starter sound? Maybe not, because unsuspecting pedestrians may conclude it’s just another Chrysler that refuses to start…

    • 0 avatar
      CorLex300

      Oh my god I just heard the sound of a Chrysler from the 80′s – early 90′s refusing to start in my head! That is hilarious!
      After a late night burn session many moons ago, a good buddy of mine and I were stranded in the wee hours of a cold winters night listening to what I am assuming is the same starter noise you are referring to in his old 1995 Plymouth Acclaim when it let us down yet again.
      I remember it well. We got picked up by a friend in a ford explorer, which ended up overheating about a mile away from where my Lexus was parked. We hoofed it at 5am on a freezing morning, but thankfully the ever reliable ES300 finally succeeded in getting everyone home safely. That starter noise is burned into my brain, along with a perfect mental image of that wonderfully awful navy blue velour interior bathed in smoke.

  • avatar
    Wabbit3

    The theme to “Jaws”? Naaaah….better if it was “Christine” starting with the squeal sound when the headlights kicked on in the movie…

  • avatar
    SilverCoupe

    The Enterprise accelerating to warp?

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    Last week’s tangential subject:

    http://xkcd.com/1156/

  • avatar
    1981.911.SC

    On my bike I have a “Ring Ring” bell mounted to let people know I am behind them.

    Ring Ring Ring Ring Ring Ring Ring Ring Ring!

    That would sure be an incentive to go faster than 18 MPH

  • avatar
    Spartan

    It should sound like the Jetson’s car. Memememememememememe

  • avatar
    DemosCat

    I vote for an alarm sound like this from Battlestar Galactica.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_4abpEf0Lc

    An alternative is an old-fashioned klaxon.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2VhB7vaZI0

  • avatar
    stryker1

    it should go “Tch”, or whatever strenuous eye-rolling sounds like.

  • avatar
    stryker1

    On a related note, has anyone else had the impulse to buy a Nissan Juke, paint it lily-pad green, and replace the horn with a speaker that makes a loud “RIBBIT” sound?

  • avatar
    redav

    I prefer just making sure that cars & pedestrians & bikes don’t occupy the same space at the same time. Solve the problem instead of treating the symptom.

    • 0 avatar
      Spike_in_Brisbane

      Exactly. Try just not driving into pedestrians or, if you must, just toot your horn.
      I also have observed that the murderous cyclists who would kill you on a bike path are the same who believe that a bell would be too girly for them to install.

  • avatar
    bkmurph

    I like the Jetsons car noise, or the mechanical clicking sound that some automatic-transmission Chryslers make when they’re coasting to a stop.

  • avatar
    halkyardo

    What about the sound of an old Citroën hydraulic pump at idle? Having (unwillingly) given up my Citroën habit a year or so ago, it still feels strange to not have the regular THRRRRRRBT-click-hiss as I’m stopped at the lights.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    TIE Fighter noise for the WIN:

  • avatar
    CriticalMass

    A looped recording playing, “iSuck, iSuck, iSuck, iSuck……..

  • avatar
    Mikemannn

    Jericho Trumpet FTW..

  • avatar
    George B

    I still vote for the sound of Paul Gilbert using a Makita cordless drill to play guitar. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1L2ntzCTZHY

    If the government sets a minimum sound level, will car owners modify them to be as quiet and stealthy as possible?

  • avatar
    mulled whine

    crazy frog ringtone noise

  • avatar
    andreroy55

    This would work: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mLr4CwkhvAc

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    In all seriousness it should be a noise that people’s minds are already programmed to recognize as a vehicle present. The lumpy idle of a 1968 302 Z28 comes to mind.
    If I got to choose, iI would want two soundtracks depending on my mood.
    Ludacris Move Bitch, looped of course.
    A continuous loop of a loud trumpeting fart.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Jet engine at full military power. For the irony.

  • avatar

    Always thought an EMD GP9 with a roots-blown 16-567 had a cool sound. And it’s a diesel-electric ‘hybrid’ built way back in the ’50s.

  • avatar
    ravenchris

    ONEtermLIMIT-oneTERMlimit-ONETERMLIMIT!

  • avatar
    ranwhenparked

    How about something by Sousa? The Liberty Bell March might be fun.

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    What about jingles playing like an ice cream truck’s? Oh wait, forget it. That’ll just cause childrens to run out of the yard/house into the street. That’s dangerous!

  • avatar
    newengland

    Bubb Rubb making the “whistles go WOOO” sound.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    Satriani’s Time from Crystal Planet. It’s very “electric” and I’ll enjoy hearing it. The damn things are thick in PDX.

  • avatar
    shaker

    2012 has been found by the NOAA as the hottest year on record in the U.S. Whatever sound they choose — one would hope to hear it more often, as it would mean that people are removing their collective heads from the sand.

    • 0 avatar
      Stumpaster

      Is that because having ass-up instead of head-up emits more heat?

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      Can I consider my head removed from the sand if I drive around in $40,000 worth of energy and resources powered by the conversion of fossil fuels to electricity and/or items to produce electricity?

      How about the sound of the studs ticking on my bicycle tires. Would that work?

  • avatar
    Sky_Render

    It should sound like a TIE fighter.

  • avatar
    Wabbit3

    OMG these are fanTAStic! The tie-fighter, crazy-frog, awesome.

    How about the “Hel-loooooo” from George Takei?

  • avatar
    CorLex300

    The familair drone of a crappy wheezing four cylinder engine.

  • avatar
    Stupid But Tough

    Here’s the next logical question:
    What if a car company built a very quiet gasoline car, like an 80′s era V8 Cadillac, would it have to make the sound also? should there be a minimum sound requirement for all cars. And while we’re on the subject, those damn bicycles are too quiet, they should be required to put playing cards in their spokes, and people walking should be required to wear squeaky shoes, bells around cats necks, tin cans tied to dogs tails…

    Or you could just watch where you’re going


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