What’s the least annoying sound to slap on an electric car?


Many of the electric cars I’ve test driven over the past year for our Green Overdrive show are immediately surprising because of one thing: they’re often times completely silent. But now after some concerns that silent electric cars will equal deadly electric cars, some auto makers are developing digital noises to add onto these battery-powered rides.

At a media event on Tuesday where Kleiner Perkins Partner Ray Lane received the keys to his brand new electric Fisker Karma, Lane drove the car around the parking lot, showing off the sound that the car makes. It sounded sort of like a digital representation of a jet engine — some people I chatted with thought the noise sounded cool, while others cringed a bit. But the noise is the standard option for the car, and the Karma actually has two silver speakers on the bottom of both sides of its back bumper that projects the sound to passersby.

Other car companies are still polling their potential customers and trying to figure out what noise would be suitable for their new EVs. Ford has been turning to Facebook and YouTube to test our four different sounds for its upcoming 2012 Ford Focus EV (see video clips below). Most of them seem somewhat off-putting to me, and if you look at Ford’s Facebook page there doesn’t seem to be a clear consensus on one that’s less annoying than the others.

What do you think? What about a custom option?

Option A

Option B

Option C

Option D


Don Moeller

I say just unplug your personal listening device and make the car silent. Lets just eliminate the sound pollution. But, if not option “B.”

Vincent Palmer

The Girasole Electric Car has a cool sound…

The cool thing about this ugly little car is the fact that, apart from being Italian designed, Japanese designer Yoshio Takaoka working with Italy’s Start Lab SAP, has designed and built the sound of a horse cantering into the car…

So that when you press the horn, the car makes a Clip Clop sound…

Harks back to the 1800’s when you had to dodge real horses on the highway…

I wonder… Does it neigh too?
Unfortunately, they don’t demo the horn in this… :(

Vincent Palmer

The cool thing about the ugly little Girasole (see video) is the fact that, apart from being an Italian design, Japanese designer Yoshio Takaoka, working with Italy’s Start Lab SAP, has built in to the horn the sound of a horse galloping…

When you press the horn, the car makes a Clip Clop sound…

Harks back to the 1800’s when you would have to dodge real horses on the highway…

But there are no Neddies under the hood of this all electric car, and I wonder… Does it neigh too?
Unfortunately, the video doesn’t give a demonstration of the sound..

Tee Hee…


Why not bring back the Horseless Carriage Flagman? For extra safety, they could shake a cowbell and a thick smoke signal.

Daniel C

High pitch sounds cancel out easily. Which means occupants in the cabin won’t be able to hear them. Yes they are annoying for anyone that maybe standing outside, but someone driving the car won’t be able to hear it.


I liked “B” and “D”, but why not allow for custom “DriveTones”??? Wouldn’t mind hearing Bach’s Cello Concerto (or Ina-Goda-Davida!) in the parking lot…. Maybe have it cut off at higher speeds.

Ryan Lawler

For the record, I’d have to say B, which seems (to me at least), the least intrusive. That said, isn’t the whole exercise a little silly? Let’s make our electric cars sound just like their less efficient brethren!

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