- in europe, new rules mean all future electric vehicles must make a minimum level of sound for safety.
- bmw has addressed the requirement by calling in hollywood musical composer hans zimmer to create a soundtrack for future evs.
- the just-introduced bmw vision m next concept features the result, called bmw iconicsounds electric.
as cost comes down and range goes up, the two biggest rational handicaps for electric vehicles are fading away. but the issue of noise—or the lack thereof—remains. bmw's answer to new safety requirements is to get help from hollywood composer hans zimmer, who collaborated on the soundtrack for the automaker's vision m next concept car (pictured above, at right, with the earlier vision inext concept).
but it's not just about safety. electric motors offer serenity at the expense of the occasional joy that a howling internal-combustion engine provides. bmw wisely addressed the desire to preserve the spine-tingling audio aspect of driving for evs that don't emit the same sounds. the vision m next hybrid, with an electric-only range of 62 miles, is the first showcase of the bmw iconicsounds electric feature that the company says will be a feature of future electric vehicles.
the soundscape is more than a facsimile of an engine. it's not quite like the audio enhancement bmw employs to mask the less sonorous aspects of the three-cylinder engine of the current i8. instead, the new soundtrack will provide different audio stimulation depending on the driving situation. as zimmer explains, "when the driver interacts with the accelerator pedal, it is not only a mechanical touchpoint but also a performative element. accelerating becomes an experience during which the driver moves through a series of gradually morphing sound textures."
the goal is to create "harmony between the driver and the electrically driven vehicle," according to bmw. and if there's anyone qualified to create passion through sound, it's zimmer. the composer and producer won an oscar for the score to the lion king. his long list of credits includes adrenaline-packed action films such as the rock, gladiator, and days of thunder. zimmer is credited with the sound technique "bwuam," in which "a major plot point is revealed and the music blasts out a single note loudly."
imagine that, but instead of learning that the bad guys got the nuclear codes in some movie, you're merely sprinting up an on-ramp. in a future where cars have gone silent, bmw still wants to stimulate your audio senses. a personal music score to your commute might not match even a fake engine note, but it's a nod to the fact that driving was, is, and should always be fun.