Audi's upcoming all-electric e-tron won't make the sounds we usually expect from a small car, but it won't be dead silent either. In a similar vein to the projects underway at Lotus and Toyota, Audi is working to develop an artificial sound system to alert people to the e-tron's presence on the street.
Speaking on the project's goals, Audi acoustics boss Dr Ralf Kunkel said that even though road noise and the movement of the car makes its presence clear enough, speeds under 25km/h are when the car is at its quietest.
It's this problem that Audi's audio engineers are aiming to overcome.
The sticking point is the question of what the artificial sound should be. While it's up to the sound team to make it happen, it's Audi's Head of Brand Development Christian Schuller who is most concerned with nailing the right sounds.
"The obvious approach would be to work on the basis of the familiar sound of a combustion engine. On the other hand, we want to underscore that an electric or hybrid Audi is an innovative product. We also want to make our Vorsprung durch Technik audible in the era of electric mobility," Schuller said.
Kunkel, on the other hand, would like to hear sounds reminiscent of sci-fi movies, like the R8-inspiring Audi concept (above) used in the I, Robot film starring Will Smith.
Last year, Audi confirmed it will build just 1000 units of its all-electric e-tron sports car, to be priced "above the R8" when it launches in 2012.
Speaking with British magazine Autocar, Audi's head of exterior design Achim Badstubner said that with around 5000 dealers worldwide, the German carmaker believes 1000 sales is achievable.
Mr Badstubner added that the e-tron will be built to order, giving the company the option of cutting production short if 1000 orders weren't received within a certain period.
He said that many customers will look to buy an e-tron rather than a conventional sports car because of the unique statement that an all-electric sports car makes.
"There are always people who want to be first to own new technology," Mr Badstubner said.
Based on the R8’s chassis, the e-tron concept was shown at the Frankfurt Motor Show this year dressed in new sheet metal with unique bumpers and sealed-off air intakes, vents and cooling apertures to improve aerodynamics.
A battery-electric vehicle, the e-tron concept is powered by four electric motors - two on each axle. According to Audi, the output of the Frankfurt concept is 230kW, with 4500Nm of torque.