Revero GT hybrid to imitate star destroyer (sort of)

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2020 Karma Revero GT Karma Automotive

Listen up! One of the selling points of electric cars is that they operate quietly because they have no “internal explosion engine,” as the maker of another alternatively powered motorcar, the Stanley Steamer, described combustion-powered automobiles. While that makes for a more refined driving experience, it also creates a safety problem for pedestrians—particularly the visually impaired, who don’t get an early audible warning that a motor vehicle is approaching.

Working with the ECCO Safety Group, Karma Automotive, the makers of the Revero GT hybrid, has come up with a signature sound for the Revero to broadcast to pedestrians when operating on electric power at low speeds. Though the idea of patching in audio over a battery seems contrived, the idea of a brand-identifying sound for a motor vehicle is not far-fetched. Harley-Davidson claims a trademark on the “potato-potahto” exhaust note of V-twin combustion engines (and unsuccessfully tried to register it with the U.S. government). How many times have you heard of a 911’s flat-six wail, a Ferrari V12’s scream, or a small-block’s burble?

Joe Durre, who is in charge of infotainment and connectivity for Karma, described the exterior sound developed for the Revero as a “low-level, throaty-electric hum,” comparing it to the soundtrack of science fiction movies or the noise made when an electric guitar is plugged into an amplifier. I’m sure that the folks at ECCO are happy for the work, but if the target was reproducing something that sounds like the widely experienced 60-cycle hum induced by buildings’ AC electrical wiring, I’m not sure that would necessarily require bringing in a consultant.

Still, ECCO makes things like backup alarms for commercial and construction vehicles and sirens for emergency vehicles, so it has a bit of expertise when it comes to warning people that they’re about to get flattened. I’m sure they worked hard at coming up with something special, since this is the first time ECCO has made an alert for a luxury passenger car.

“It’s a sound that is uniquely Karma that our customers instantly recognize when the car is powered and driven at low speeds,” Durre explained. “Our sound alerts pedestrians that a car is nearby, something that is especially helpful for those who may be distracted, blind or visually-impaired, and gives our brand something that is very recognizable and satisfies government safety regulations.”

Durre also said the sound could be customizable on future Karma products, starting with those based on the all-electric e-Klipse platform being developed for 2021; so your Karma will eventually be able to let everyone know that it is you, and you alone, who is coming or going.

“This technology gives an added dimension to the personalized customization options that allow our electric vehicles to match our customers’ individual lifestyles and tastes, and help make our products even more special and unique,” he added.

The audible alert is not just for brand identification or massaging owners’ egos; as alluded to above, it’s the law. The Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010 revised the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) to set minimum sound requirements for electric and hybrid vehicles.

To comply with the above regulations, each Revero GT gets fitted with exterior transducers developed by ECCO front and rear, which put out a spectrum of sound at specific decibel levels depending on the vehicle’s speed. The system is active whenever the car is powered up and standing still, or when moving at speeds of up to 18.6 mph (either forward or reverse).

It may be recognizable and meet regulations but, personally, I think it sounds a bit like my kitchen’s garbage disposal. You can judge for yourself here.

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