Hybrid cars are feared for their silent, stealthy approach - in parking lots and on city streets. No one has been hurt, but that doesn't keep worry warts everywhere (not to mention trial lawyers) from thinking about it.
What sound should a silent electric car make?
(Quiet hybrid video)
Lotus, the maker of fine racing cars, thinks it has the answer.
Its ideas division, which works with other manufacturers, has used a Toyota Prius to synthesise the sound of a traditional engine which is then emitted through a loudspeaker mounted near the radiator.
It projects a realistic engine sound ahead of the car when it is running solely in electric mode and the sound changes depending on speed and throttle. The driver cannot hear any of the additional noise.
One of the people who commented on the original article opined "Wait ten years. Young louts will have electric cars with GIANT speakers. True, the cars will only get a mile per charge but that won't be the point, will it?" Then, the problem will be scaring the blind half to death, along with the rest of us.
Actually, I think this is a rather unimaginative approach. Now, what should a car sound like?
Do hybrid cars simply materialize next to you in a parking lot? How about a sound like the Star Trek transporter?
Update 11-May-2009: Found it! A reader left a comment that was almost right. In his 1985 novel The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, science fiction Grandmaster Robert Heinlein describes a replica Model T that is powered silently, but has a distinctive sound. See the entry for car sound tape. And thanks to reader Rod who almost had it, putting me on the right track.