Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The “Noise” about the Mini-E

We humans are sensory creatures, what we know of our world is collected via our sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing.

For the electric car, our Mini-E, most of the "noise" conversation has been centered on the fact that we are very tuned into car noise. If there is a lack of noise from the car, that constitutes a hazard that needs to be mitigated by the addition of ( hard to believe it ) noise. We rely on our hearing as much as we do our vision in collision avoidance.

Imagine a deer in the forest listening for danger.

We rely on our hearing as we do all five of our senses in all aspects of our life. A lack of noise can be a detriment as in the case of low speed pedestrian safety, or it can be an improvement.

What does the electric car bring us in terms of improving our quality of life? A whole bunch is the answer.

1. Managing the noise in a shopping district is huge. If you're a pedestrian, a bicyclist, or a café customer enjoying an alfresco dining experience on an outdoor patio, a lower decibel level will greatly improve that experience. The quieter our “mainstreets” the more enjoyable-thus profitable-thus valuable they are. At low speeds up to 70% of the noise is from the drivetrain. It’s one of the reasons walking streets and malls are so popular is that they eliminate the largest noisemaker, the automobile. Imagine your favorite "go to spot" with the quietness of electric cars around you.

2. A typical town development pattern in a residential neighborhood consist of less expensive apartments or attached housing near the prime arterial and largest intersections. The further away from the traffic you go the more into the more expensive custom home neighborhood you get ebven though it's less conveiniant.


One of the biggest reasons is noise. The lower priced homes have more noise associated with them and the higher price homes less noise. If you remove the noise penalty and share traffic loads equally in a grid pattern, town development patterns would revert to basic principles of neighborhood quality instead of design principles centered on mitigating car noise. Imagine your home or apartment and the quietness of a neighborhood filled with electric cars.

3. “They live next to the freeway” That is seldom a compliment for a location of a home. My guess would be a home adjacent to the freeway would have a 30% lower cost than the same home one mile away in the same town. The main reasons? Noise pollution and emissions pollution.

According to the American Lung associations 2010 State of our Air Quality Report, it is unhealthy to live near a freeway. (Like I needed to tell you that) At freeway speeds half of the noise is from the motor and half is from road noise and wind. But imagine reducing the noise by 50% what an improvement that would be for those living next to a freeway. Imagine reducing the tailpipe emissions by 100% what an improvement that would be. To the extent we make our transportation quieter and emission free will be the extent that we reduce the penalty for living next to a freeway, It might even be healthy to do so in a few short decades.

4. We seek solace in nature, Central Park in New York, or the Rocky Mountains in the west. In this escape to nature we seek all of her gifts to our senses including quiet. Nothing tops a camping trip to a remote desert or mountain campsite where we can listen to the sounds of nature. Our conversations with each other are more meaningful, our nerves are soothed, and our spirits lifted by the experience. To the extent that we reduce the noise in our day to day world, we will increase our enjoyment of living and working there. Imagine your urban jungle populated by the quietness of electric cars.

5. Generally, luxury cars are quieter and they are more expensive. Why? In part because they spend a lot of money on sound dampening strategies to keep the noise of their motor and transmission away from the passenger cabin, thus a more enjoyable driving experiance. Imagine your car interior having the same quietness of electric cars.

Driving the Mini-E for 17 months, being able to hear the birds around our lagoon as I drive by the water, hearing a conversation of a couple as I wait for a light, and having a chat with my wife in the passenger seat is pretty amazing. The silence as I drive around is a huge improvements in my life. I think this is one of the reasons I and others love driving the Mini-E so much. I had a neighbor approach me a few months ago and say “do you know how much better it would be if all cars were as quiet as yours”

There are lots more reasons why the quietness of our electric cars will improve our day to day lives, The past several months the focus has been on the problem of no sound with the electric car. The benefits are far greater.

I’m interested in hearing from you some of your experiences as EV drivers and what ways you think the quietness of the electric car can improve a persons sensory experience.

I look forward to “hearing” from you

Mini-E #183, 21,000 miles


1 comment:

  1. As a side note on the noise issue, The blind community lobbied really hard for audible chirpers at controlled intersections so that seeing impaired folks could hear the noise and begin their walk across the lanes. The thought was that this would improve safety.

    Once deployed the results were almost instantly recognized as opposite of the intention.

    Seeing impaired were now walking into the intersection once they heard they noise the result of which was a several fold increase in ped accidents.

    We do need to be careful of unintended consequences and false senses of security. The best defence is an alert pedestrian, not one with a false sense of security.