William Weir

The Electronic Tones of the Nissan Leaf

In Uncategorized on January 2, 2011 at 11:29 pm

The Nissan Leaf is now available to U.S. car buyers. They became the first all-electric cars made commercially available in the U.S. when they rolled out into dealerships last month. I suppose this has all sorts of implications for the future of car manufacturing, fuel consumption, etc. But -as we are wont to ask here at 400Hz – what does it mean sound-wise?

It means is that we’ll be hearing what’s been described as a sine wave that sweeps from a frequency of 2.5.kHz to 600hz (roughly between a D and an E flat). That’s one of the audio options available to Leaf drivers; Nissan has installed synthesizers in each Leaf to alert pedestrians of the oncoming cars (since electric cars make no sound).

It might be the only car sound with its own Facebook page.

The synthesizer turns on automatically with ignition and shuts off automatically once the car hits 18 mph (at which point, road noise is loud enough). The driver, though, can turn it off manually at any time.

Nissan worked with advocacy groups for the blind on the sound. Nonetheless, the National Federation for the Blind was reportedly unhappy that Nissan included the option to shut off the sound.

From the New York Times:

According to [Mark Perry, Nissan’s director for product planning], the challenge was multiple — the sounds had to be loud enough to get people’s attention, but not annoying to passersby and not so low or high that older pedestrians would miss them. “It’s a well-known fact that as people age they lose higher frequencies,” he said.

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