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If The Electric Cars Sound And Look Good, I'll Get One

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2011 Nissan Leaf

2011 Nissan Leaf

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I was just reading about the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf and began thinking about getting an electric vehicle (EV) one day in the distant future--or not so distant future, depending on my tolerance for increasing debt levels.

With absolutely no proof, a lack of caffeine and having had very little sleep as of late, I have come to the conclusion that the first iterations of pure electric cars that are available to normal consumers (none of these short-term leases) will pique the curiosity of many early adopters, but they will be bland, bland, and bland to drive. No fun, as Iggy Pop once sang. Why?

Testing the waters
Although car companies know that design is still THE differentiator when it comes to getting customers really passionate about a car, in the EV space I feel car companies think it's what's under the hood that counts and the clean image--a big, fat mistake, in my opinion.

To make these cars desirable, it can't just be about efficiency and zero tailpipe emissions above all else. Too techy. Too dry. Too one-faceted. These cars must have a unique and expressive look, something that stands out. Frankly, in the very new arena of mostly and fully electric vehicles, apart from the gorgeous and swoopy Fisker Karma and the eventual release of the Tesla S sedan, none of the planned EVs or partial EVs really makes you say wow.

I am not counting the Renault Zoe and Fluence z.e. cars and Citroen Revolte concepts. They are interesting to look at to say the least. They will be watered down for production, but they are not run-of-the-mill. They make you want to get in and drive around and be seen. Not so much the Volt or the Leaf. Both are kind of dull to look at, with nothing that makes you want to rush out and get one. The Mitsubishi i-MiEV is interesting but too small to be taken seriously.

No music to my ears?
And as a car enthusiast, I also feel there will be much room for improvement in another area, and I am not talking features, range or design. I am talking about sound, like the sound of an engine. One thing any car guy (or girl) loves is to hear the sound of an engine as it rises through is operating range, be it pistons or rotaries, turbocharged, diesels or anything else. Sound is so integral to the automotive experience that it cannot be left out or watered down or forgotten. How will engineers deal with this? How will they make me want to drive it for fun and not just be good to Mother Earth? That is the biggest piece of the equation for me.

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Comments (25)
  1. You know what would make an EV sound and look good? $200/barrel oil! Because that's what will happen if the increasing chorus of institutions (most recently the US army!)warning for peak-oil in the next few years turns out to be right. (click screenname for Guardian article on peak oil in 2012)
     
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  2. You can find a promo of Z.E. Renault in this video:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYlIEXye290
    World is changing
     
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  3. What a silly article. Just go out and buy an SUV, I understand that they are cheap today.
     
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  4. What you fail to understand is that those seeking an all EV don't mind looks. Take the Prius (Aluminum Shaped Prawn) for example and how many Toyota has sold - and that's only a hybrid. On the"engine noise" - most EV consumers want the silence - that way they can either hear the wind, birds, or their I-pod, or talking on their I-Phone: currently the engine noise reduces the audible levels of a bluetooth anyway.
     
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  5. The lack of engine noise is one of the big reasons I want an EV. It would be so peaceful to cruise around in an EV. I am sure some folks will opt for a synthectic engine noise. But, I won't be one of them.
     
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  6. I wouldn't judge this article "silly", it's too easy and superficial. After all there might be customers that think the same way too...
    What to me sounds realistic is that cars are often a choice that is not purely rational, there are a lot of emotions in this process!... so what we should take from this article is that these EVs have to be more sexy to capture a wider audience.
     
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  7. The Mitsubishi i-MiEV is interesting but too small to be taken seriously.
    I disagree. Because Mitsubishi is building it it will indeed be built right. Mitsubishi is a fine engineering company, many Chinese carmakers are using their engines in their upstart cars. Must mean somethins, eh? Now that I own a 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer GTS I have personal ownership experience with a Mitsubishi. They are good, brothers, and I know they've spent the time necessary to build a great all-electric car.
     
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  8. Some of these do look very futuristic and spiffy. But I don't care how they look, as look as I get to breath clean air again. About the noise of an engine, last time I checked the noisy cars are very, very annoying. I don't want noise in my car, and the tires threads will make noise by the way. Yes, get rid of the noise and the poisonous gas emissions out of the roads and the cities.
     
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  9. As to the noise issue, I strongly agree with #4, #5, and #8. Well said bloggers! Silence is golden. In the past few months, I have taken to turning off the engine in my S-10 while stuck at traffic lights. It is amazing how restful it is just to get rid of the idling engine noise. Try it, you'll like it.
    When we were teenagers, we used to get 45 rpm records of "Sports Cars in Hi-Fi" We had one of the BRM V-16 F1 engine. Talk about the sound of ripping silk! Maybe Jon could find one of those, load it on an ipod, and listen to it while driving and electric car, LOL.
     
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  10. I agree. Silence is golden as is eschewing gasoline's carcinogenic Benzene. I switched from a gasoline lawnmower to cordless electric and what a wonderful difference! I can now mow the lawn with a smile on my face and fresh air around me all the while speaking on the phone if I so choose. I'm hoping to get an electric scooter with a removable/hot swappable lithium battery, next.
     
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  11. Why not mentions the other things to love about the ICE? How about toxic air-pollution(polluted cites and towns), Oil spills from piplelines and tankers, Toxic runoff from millions of ICEs car-oil, AF, etc, leaking gas that goes directly into the ground and water supply. Constant gridlock, and noise, yes jam a few million filthy ICEs bumper to bumper and they make a lot of noise.(that noise and vibration you love so much degrades cities just as harshly as the pollution they spew) How about american-led resource wars to sustain the american way of life(ie endless suburbs and strip-malls.) And how could anyone not love an overbuilt highway system that is in a permanent state of dis-repair?, and the staggering costs just to maintain them. But hey, ICEs *look* cool, and better yet there NOISY so by all means, keep throwing money at the worst invention of the human race-the mass-market ICE car.....
     
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  12. If you have driven an electric car you will have noticed that its not totally silent. In fact the sound of the tyres and the roll the car makes on the road is very similar indeed to a grandiose lexus or rolls royce and let me tell you they have spent a bob or two making these cars as quite inside as a moving board room. So your point is certainly irrelevant for any high end car. The ferrari or lamborghini sound alike can be taken care for by artificial sound if its so necessary. I think it feels much more aero dynamic accelerating to 100 in 3 seconds with just the sound of the tarmac. I also disagree with design.Apart from attractive looks on the outside the electric gimmicks inside these cars will make them highly desirable and fashionable.I can mention many makes of petrol cars in production today much uglier.
     
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  13. Man, I love seeing a discussion on this! You know, I have warmed greatly to the idea of an electric car - especially as I live in a part of Canada where I pay over $4.20/gallon.
    But like all automotive products, I want it to be fun and nice to look at and drive. In short, I want it all. Is that so wrong?
     
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  14. Man, I love seeing a discussion on this! You know, I have warmed greatly to the idea of an electric car - especially as I live in a part of Canada where I pay over $4.20/gallon.
    But like all automotive products, I want it to be fun and nice to look at and drive. In short, I want it all. Is that so wrong?
     
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  15. To answer Jon Druker's question "is that so wrong?" read: A Whole Loaf by Shmuel Yosef Agnon
     
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  16. Couldn't agree more. The GM Volt is a drab imitation of the prototype model. I one issue I've notice, I could be wrong, but it seems that most EVs have a limitation on the rims you can choose from (typically just one style/size).
     
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  17. [img]http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/6a/Mitsubishi_i_MiEV.jpg/220px-Mitsubishi_i_MiEV.jpg[/img]
    The 2011 Mitsubishi i-MiEV does have both style and substance. A bit bubbly in shape but the car is engineered to last.
     
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  18. I wondered if we could pop pics in here, now I know.
     
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  19. Actually I would love it if there was absolutely no sound at all. If you want sound turn on the stereo. I'm sick of these 'guy things'. Would you like a gun to go with that noise sir? Or a subscription to porno?
     
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  20. What a stupid superficial article!
    It was more like an op-ed about why this 12 year old ISN'T going to buy an electric car!
    Because it doesn't go, "VROOM, VROOM!!!"
    Wow, truly pathetic........
    What an idiot.
     
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  21. By the way, Mr. Druker....
    I have heard that the LEAF will have an audio feature built into the car's stereo system,
    so if you want your LEAF to sound like a Harley-Davidson, just press a button....
    If you want the LEAF to sound like a V8 engine or a Mack truck or an Altima, just press another button.
    But for me, I'll prefer to listen to NOTHING or some of my favorite music!
     
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  22. I heard that when computers replaced typewriters in newsrooms, they came with a program that made the tapping of keypads replicate the sound of a typewriter. No one uses those programs anymore. Just sayin'...
     
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  23. Hope you caught NPR's story on electric motorcycles at:
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126264432
    A Harley rider test-drove an ebike and LOVED the lack of sound, saying that it allowed her to hear her surroundings.
     
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  24. Sound to me is critical in the automotive experience, but it doesn't have to be an internal combustion sound. Make it sound like a rocket ship and I'll get a kick out of driving it -- and want to drive it and own it.
     
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  25. If someone would just design an acoustic vent to the motor housing that can be opened or closed by the driver, we could be done with these silly discussions.
     
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