Creating Nissan LEAF Sounds Required Lots of 'Feedback'
The world's first mass-marketed electric car, the Nissan Leaf, boasts all of the safety features of a gasoline-powered model: air bags, anti-lock brakes, an impact-absorbing frame. There's one high-tech extra: a synthesizer that emits noise to alert pedestrians to the vehicle's approach.
But it's not just any noise. Nissan Motor Co. spent years developing the Leaf's unique sound, which some listeners have described as a gentler version of an airplane taking off or the approach of a spaceship in a sci-fi movie. When backing up, the car pings like a sonar.
What's clear is that the Leaf, which is just rolling into U.S. showrooms, sounds nothing like conventional cars. And that's no accident, said Tsuyoshi Kanuma, who led the Leaf's sound team in developing the distinctive spectrum of high and low notes.
"It's not loud but it's distinct enough that you can hear it sooner than you would a gasoline-powered engine," said Kanuma, manager of the company's noise and vibration engineering group.
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