It’s confessional that they’re trying to make EVs sound like . . . something. Most notably, sound like what they’re trying to replace. The Ford Mach-e “Mustang,” for instance, has a button you can push that makes it sound like a Mustang – with an engine – when you floor the accelerator pedal (EVs have no gas pedal). You have probably heard the clip of the 2024 Charger EV demonstrating its “Fratzonic” sound amplification system, meant to sound like there’s something revving (and exhaling) that’s missing.
Why do this?
Well, they do it for the same reason companies that make meatless “meat” refer to it as meat and advertise that it tastes just like meat. They’re admitting what you really want but aren’t having tonight.
Automotive News ran a related confessional the other day – without realizing it, either. A reporter was sent to GM’s sound lab, where the way the sounds of a car not-yet-made can be simulated, to get a sense of how that car would sound if it were to be built.
“It has vibration, it has sound . . . it’s a tool that we use to make virtual cars come alive,” explained GM sound engineer William Seldon. The perennially smiling woman doing the interview can be seen pretending to drive a virtual car in the simulator, rotating the ersatz steering wheel left and right accompanied by sounds of an engine that sounds like a V8 revving up and down.
But GM is giving up on V8 engines.
It currently only sells two cars that still have them – Corvette and Camaro – and both of them are going electric (and crossover, in the case of the Camaro). There are still big trucks and SUVs based on them, like the Chevy Silverado 1500 and its SUV iterations, including the Tahoe, GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade, that have them. But even these are targeted for termination via “electrification,” which GM’s manageress has openly stated will happen because that is what GM’s manageress wants to happen:
So why the bother about how it sounds?
Well, it’s because GM knows perfectly well that people like the sounds they’re about to not hear anymore. At least not authentically.
“The sound, it really helps make this connection,” confesses Seldon. “What brings passion about vehicles . . .? (Everyone knows) a lot of it is that (sound).”
Of course. Silence is the sound of death. There is no noise in the graveyard. No more passion six feet under.
“Sound is a way to bring character to vehicles and give them personality,” the tone-deaf reporteress admits without understanding what she just said. “If there’s no sound that relates to acceleration,” she continues, obliviously, then there’s no connection to it. Just the same as what happens when you are silently whisked up to your floor by an elevator. It’s as forgettable an experience as being soundly asleep.
GM sound engineer Glenn Pietila elaborates, explaining that sounds are the means by which a driver gets feedback from the vehicle but also something more than that. “They are a way for the vehicle to communicate back to you.”
But elevators and escalators don’t communicate because there’s no need. You get in or on and they take you from A to B. Not unlike electric vehicles. In fact, a great deal like them. They all move you, in a physical sense. None move you, emotionally.
How could they?
The only thing moving is the mechanism, the motor. Why simulate the sound of the engine that’s not revving? The transmission that isn’t shifting? It is for precisely the same reason that purveyors of meatless meat describe what they’re purveying as “meat” and insist you won’t miss it because it tastes just the same – even though it isn’t.
But if meatless meat is so good, why not say it without saying anything about meat? Why not tout the tastiness of soy or cricket powder or whatever’s in those “patties” that aren’t made of meat? And if battery-powered vehicles are just as good as engine-powered vehicles, why not let their authentic sounds stand on their merits?
In both cases, the answer is self-evident.
If it were otherwise, this sad effort to replace meat with what isn’t by telling people it tastes just the same and you won’t miss it – and this tragic push to replace cars with character that make us feel something for them more than we feel for the plumbing in the bathroom – would not require all this effort to make them taste and sound like what they’re not, hoping we won’t notice what they’re working so hard to take away.
. . .
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