Comparing the sound of a sports car's exhaust to a musical instrument is nothing new but for electric cars, this means taking an entirely different approach. Japanese car maker Tommykaira has partnered with instrument manufacture Roland to create a vehicle that will sound like "driving a spaceship on the road."
Electric cars such as the Tesla Model S and BMW i3 already have a science fiction soundtrack thanks to their motors and energy recover systems, but this partnership with Roland would make the ZZ – a two-seater convertible sports car – sound even more alien. The sounds produced by Roland synthesisers would be pumped into the cabin through speakers and can be tweaked to sound however the driver wants.
The sounds would change depending on how the car is being driven. Acceleration, braking and how hard the motor is working (such as when driven up or down hill) will all be taken into account to produce a sound fitting for the situation. Roland says the system is "based on responsiveness, which is especially important when recreating the subtleties of acoustic musical instruments electronically. That same technology will be used to create ingenious neo-futuristic sounds that will give sports car enthusiasts the experience of driving a spaceship on the road".
Although pedestrians and local residents may welcome the quietness of electric cars, Tommykaira and Roland recognise that sports car drivers still want a satisfying soundtrack to go with high-performance electric cars like the Tesla P85D can offer. Roland explains it has modelled "the subtle characteristics and responsiveness of acoustic instrument sounds" to create "the most realistic electronic music sounds and... the best driving sounds possible in the electric sports car".
As well as a "spaceship" soundtrack, the car will also produce sounds similar to a conventional car. We would not be surprised to see the option of buying and downloading news sets of sounds at a later date.
The ZZ began life as a traditional petrol sports car in 1999 but production stopped due to changes in Japanese law when only half of its order book had been fulfilled. Announced in late 2013 and similar in design to the Tesla Roadster, the updated electric ZZ will accelerate from 0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds, has a range of 75 miles and will cost approximately £50,000; deliveries began in July.
A licence to export the ZZ to the UK, plus European markets such as France and Germany, is currently being sought and the company hopes to have sold 300 cars by the end of 2015.