As electric cars take to the streets, the people at Audi have been confronted with what they see as a new problem to solve: their cars are too quiet. Acoustic technicians have been enlisted to find the new sound of Audi, and it won't be a roaring V8 or hissing turbo – the inspiration might just come from the sci-fi world.

Audi's flagship electric e-tron series is virtually silent at low speeds. This lack of noise could pose a risk to the vision impaired, cyclists and others road users.

Organizations for the blind worldwide are advocating that quiet cars be given a sound. As the world follows countries such as the U.S and Japan in making laws governing ultra quiet electric cars, Audi has entered the sound lab with a few ideas up its sleeve. The mission – to come up with a new sound that defines the Audi automotive brand.

“We speak of quiet cars when an electric car is driven at a speed between 0 to 25km/h (15.5mph),” explains Dr. Ralf Kunkel, Head of Acoustics at Audi. “Up to this speed electric cars are virtually silent as they glide through the streets. Noise from the rolling of the tires and from the slipstream comes to the forefront above this speed, at which point an electric car is no longer significantly more quiet than a conventional vehicle. The acousticians are currently hard at work on the sound design of the Audi e-tron. It is not just a matter of safety, but also a question of how the Audi of the future should sound.”

While not giving away too much, Kunkel has hinted that a sci-fi influence may be at work: “The sounds used for space ships in films are reminiscent of car sounds, yet are also very different, making this a rather interesting approach. An Audi will not sound like an airplane with jet engines or a space ship from a science fiction film any time soon, but the sound will be new and unusual. The Audi RSQ from the Hollywood film I, Robot gives an indication of how an Audi might sound in the future.”

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