Loudness is not a necessary evil
As humans, we associate and assign different sensory inputs from both animate and inanimate objects, natural or man-made, to define and recognise it. For vehicles, the last 100 years of Internal Combustion Engine dictates that more power requires bigger engines, which emits louder noise. So, we associate louder engine noise with a more powerful vehicle.
But the emergence of electric motor for vehicle propulsion defies this association. Because electric motors are quiet and there is a nominal increase in loudness with even more powerful motors compared to ICE.
Recently, EU has passed a law to equip EVs with artificial noise to alert pedestrian at lower speed. Few EV companies have added engine sound to their vehicles not only for pedestrian safety but to make the driver/rider feel the power.
Maybe this is just a transitional phase for us to adapt to the new era of silent electric transport. But we should try to exploit the absence of noise to our advantage.
The World Health Organization [WHO] has fixed 45 decibels as the safe noise level for a city. Experts believe that continuous noise levels in excess of 90 decibels can cause loss of hearing and irreversible changes in the nervous systems. Metropolitan areas in India usually register an average more than 90 decibels. Vehicle noises contribute a sizeable percentage to this.
When the overall noise of the city reduces, we will be more sensitive to the quieter noises in our vicinity. Imagine a ride that not only soaks in the sights but also the actual sound of your surrounding and nature. That will be a more pleasurable experience.
And secondly, let’s look at a shark or a tiger. We recognize them as a powerful predator from sight alone without even their sound. In fact, stealth is their strength and advantage. So, it is possible to represent power and performance with other sensory inputs that don’t pollute, especially noise. It is open to the designers and manufacturers to come up with new vocabularies to represent them efficiently.