The problem posed by the fact that EVs are so quiet they could pose threat to pedestrians who don’t hear them coming was addressed in Europe by mandating sound emitting devices on all new electric cars - they are called AVAS (short for Acoustic Vehicle Alarm System). However, the sounds they make are not standardized and each manufacturer is free to choose its own style kind o audible signature.

And while some manufacturers, namely BMW and Porsche are putting a lot of time and thought into creating these pedestrian alert sounds, it seems that Skoda isn’t trying all that hard. It recently revealed what the sound its PHEV are going to make, and it sounds like an engine sound from a mid-1990s racing game.

No, seriously, we’re not trying to be mean, that’s the best honest description of the noise. It almost sounds like a bad digital interpretation of a four-cylinder diesel engine. It’s nowhere near as sophisticated as what the two aforementioned German automakers have done, or even others such as Renault or Nissan.

Skoda does say that this particular sample is reserved for the vehicles in its lineup that also have an internal combustion engine (its iV-badged Octavia and Superb models). This, we presume, means that for its fully-electric models, it will create a different sound.

Gallery: Skoda PHEV Sounds

If you were wondering how and where the sound is emitted from, well, there’s a small encased speaker located close to the front right wheel. According to European Union regulations, electric cars have to make this artificial noise at speeds of up to 20 km/h (12.4 mph), but Skoda has set its system up so that it gets louder up to 25 km/h (15.5 mph) and then gradually fades away before stopping completely at 30 km/h (18.6 mph); in reverse, it’s played at up to 6 km/h (4 mph) and the tone of the sound actually changes to be even more clearly audible.

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You’re walking through a car park and behind you an electric car sets off. It’s so quiet that you aren’t aware of it. And that can be a stumbling block. That’s why ŠKODA’s hybrid models are equipped with warning sounds.

4. 6. 2020

Electric cars and plug-in hybrids are very quiet when moving at low speeds. That helps reduce noise in the area, but on the other hand it can pose a risk to pedestrians who might not hear the vehicle. That’s why these cars emit a warning sound.

The first ŠKODA cars to get the new sound system, known as E-noise, are the plug-in hybrid ŠKODA SUPERB iV and ŠKODA OCTAVIA iV. As you can hear in the example, the sound resembles a combustion engine, with low frequencies that become higher as the car speeds up. And the sound abates as the car reduces speed, so pedestrians can estimate whether the car is speeding up or slowing down.

Developing a practical solution and fine-tuning the sound itself for ŠKODA cars was a job for experts from the carmaker’s development centre in Mladá Boleslav. “It wasn’t an easy task – there’s not much room beneath the bonnet and the legislation is strict,” explains Pavel Orendáš, the head engineer working on the project.

The car also has to emit warning sounds when reversing at speeds of up to 6 km/h. Here, too, the plug-in hybrids’ warning noise imitates a combustion engine, but with different tones notifying pedestrians that the car is going backwards.

Futuristic-sounding hybrids

Creating a warning sound audio “signature” is something of an opportunity for carmakers, as well as an engineering challenge. Although the legislation prescribes which frequency bands the sound should use and at what volume (to an overall level of at least 56 decibels), designers can be a bit creative and adapt the sound to the given car’s character. “Plug-in hybrids get a sound that imitates a combustion engine so that everything matches,” Orendáš says, explaining the choice used in ŠKODA cars already heading out onto the roads.

The sporty OCTAVIA RS iV, for example, will have a sound character the same as standard OCTAVIA iV and SUPERB iV models. “Given the model’s specific design feature, however, the sporty character of the sound only comes into play during dynamic driving away from urban roads,” Orendáš points out.

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