Automotive research identifies the sounds consumers want electric cars to make







Published by Gerald Ferreira Date: December 15, 2011
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HARMAN’s HALOSonic Survey Highlights Carmaker’s Sound Opportunity

With impending safety legislation requiring electric cars of the future to emit sounds to increase pedestrian safety, consumers voice their tastes and preferences

  •  Majority of respondents say they want electric or hybrid cars to sound like conventional cars
  • Family car drivers prefer a hum or whirring sound such as a washing machine, or hairdryer for electric cars
  • Each brand of electric car should sound different
  • Females and families prefer quieter sound levels
  • Research provides industry with a new vocabulary to describe each type of sound

Stamford, CT – HARMAN, the global leading supplier of premium audio and infotainment systems (NYSE:HAR), announced today the results of a survey it commissioned to help identify the types of sounds consumers want future electric cars to make.

While the majority of respondents actually want electric cars to sound like their current cars, consumers in the survey said they expect that car manufacturers will have a distinctive sound for each auto brand, suggesting opportunities for signature sounds and differentiation that isn’t available today.

HARMAN conducted the research to advance its HALOsonic sound synthesis expertise. In collaboration with Lotus Engineering, the company is leading the development of sound synthesis to increase pedestrian safety around electric and hybrid cars.  This study will be used to help car makers define the type and level of sound for electric vehicles, supporting an increased focus on sensory cues as a way to subconsciously communicate their brands while still improving safety.

“This study further enhances our understanding of sound synthesis in the electric and hybrid vehicle segment ahead of the impending legislation that mandates sound solutions to improve pedestrian safety around electric and hybrid cars.” said Sachin Lawande, HARMAN’s Chief Technology Officer. HARMAN will use the research to help define the sounds of next generation HALOsonic sound synthesis, satisfying consumer needs and legislative requirements. “Car makers are already thinking about sounds to meet legislation as well as ways they can differentiate their cars or offer options to customise the car. They need to make sure that the sounds they choose are in harmony with their brands,” added Lawande.

Although a majority of respondents want the sound of a conventional car, family car drivers suggest that quieter, smoother, humming sounds are appropriate for electric vehicles.  Female respondents and families are significantly more likely to want quieter / less powerful sounds compared to males.  And while electric cars don’t typically use conventional gearboxes that need shifting, consumers want the sound linked to acceleration. Audible gear shift points in these vehicles will become a particularly desirable feature for sports car owners keen to hear a more ‘authentic’ sound.

The survey was conducted by MMR Research Worldwide, involving six hundred 21-65 year old respondents across Europe.  Using MMR’s proprietary Brandphonics techniques, HARMAN has been able to profile different sounds providing a lexicon describing what each sound means to the respondent. “The audio signature of a hybrid or electric engine is an important differentiator for consumers and our findings will help car manufacturers meet the needs of various customer segments.” says HARMAN’s Lawande.

HARMAN’s HALOsonic sound synthesis is available in vehicles this year.