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Ford Lets Facebook Choose New Electric Car Sounds

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author photo by Holly Reich July 2011

Enough with quiet electric vehicles. Customers want some sound coming out of those batteries.

At least that's what Ford's Facebook fans say. On the company's Electric Vehicles Facebook page, Ford asked their admirers to rank four sounds for the new Focus Electric.  Here are the options:

Sound A

Sound B

Sound C

Sound D

The sounds are fairly tame, but the comments aren't. They range from "too high pitched, sounds like a U.F.O. or Star Wars" to "How about tires on gravel?" Want something spa-like and soothing, or the grunt of a super-charged Mustang? Apparently, enthusiasts have very clear ideas of how their EVs should sound.

Even more interesting, the poll allowed fans to interact with Ford EV team members and provide direct feedback that can be used to impact the final product. Nearly 300 fans ranked the sounds, while 400 posted comments.

"The poll tells us two things without a question: people are interested in the future of electric vehicles and they want to be heard," said Scott Monty, Ford Digital and Multimedia Communications Manager. "Consistent with our overall approach to social media, we've given customers a chance to have a voice and we've gone the extra step of acknowledging their input and building it into our business process."

To come up with the right melody, Ford engineers perform a variety of tests, including analyzing the frequency spectrum for detection. They also initiated evaluations with different groups, including visually impaired pedestrians.

The engineers have also created a vehicle that produces the potential sounds. When driven around a parking lot, they evaluate the sounds from a pedestrian's perspective. Since the sound is intended only to be heard from outside the vehicle, pedestrians are the major concern.

"We're trying to find a distinct sound that's pleasing to customers and alerts them of an oncoming vehicle," said Dave McCreadie, Noise/Vibration Supervisor for Hybrid and Electric Vehicles. "This sound needs to be something that can be integrated into a person's sound spectrum so they can immediately recognize the noise and associate it with an EV approaching the rest of their lives, just like we do with emergency vehicle sirens."

Ford employees were also given the opportunity to comment on EV sounds. The employee poll, recently featured on the Ford intranet site, showed nearly 3,400 employees sharing their opinion in just a couple of days.

Ford routinely asks its employees for opinions on topics ranging from product to driving conduct. The EV sounds poll was one of the more popular surveys.

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Ford Lets Facebook Choose New Electric Car Sounds - Autotrader