Malcolm Flynn | Apr 12, 2012

Audi has employed acoustic engineers to develop ‘new sound signatures’ for its future e-tron models. The project comes in response to fears that the almost silent operation of electric vehicles (EV) presents a hazard for pedestrians.

The development of synthetic sounds for EVs is nothing new. Nissan’s Leaf and Volkwagen’s Golf Blue-e-Motion electric models emit pedestrian-warning noises and Lotus has also explored similar technologies.

For its e-tron cars, Audi has gone to great lengths to create a sound which it describes as sporting in character, yet distinctly electronic.

"Good sound design is a complex endeavour," explains Dr. Ralf Kunkel, Head of Acoustics at Audi.

"We have gathered a lot of expertise over the years. We have also learned how to amplify pleasant frequencies and to suppress unpleasant noises."

In its current form, the e-tron prototype ‘sound signature’ varies according to throttle position, and is emitted through a 40W speaker attached to the underside of the car.

Children of the 80s might find the noise emitted by the e-tron prototype reminiscent of KITT from the TV series Knight Rider.

Audi is yet to confirm an on-sale date for the production R8 e-tron, but has committed to a limited-release launch before the end of 2012.

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