Aside from limited range and the need to charge on a regular basis, what is the most noticeable difference between a fuel-powered vehicle and an electric vehicle? The answer you’re looking for is sound. In case you haven’t noticed, electric cars are almost completely silent, but that is about to change. When I first saw the 2015 Tesla Model S Elizabeta – a Model S that was customized by Larte Design – I was excited to see that the custom package also included a sound synthesizer that gave a personality to the otherwise silent electric motors. On the other side of the world, in Kyoto, Japan, Green Lord Motors has been Japan’s Tesla, and they have taken the same path. GLM has taken a Tommy Kaira ZZ and turned it into a lithium powered, all-electric vehicle called the GLM ZZ. The best part is that GLM has teamed up with Roland Corporation to provide a similar sound synthesizer system for the GLM ZZ, and like the Model S Elizabeta, it looks like it just might make driving an EV a little more fun.

Roland’s sound synthesizer is rather small in size and comes in at less than 2.5 pounds on the scale, so the additional equipment shouldn’t hurt the ZZ’s 0 – 62 mph sprint time of just 3.9 seconds. Furthermore, the system will produce different sounds according to what driving mode is selected and how the car is driven. The tone can even be changed by the driver as he sees fit. Neither company has gone into extreme detail, but there should be several different sound settings to choose from – including a “neo-futuristic” sound that will make the ZZ sound like a ground-traveling space ship.

Continue reading for the full story.

Why it matters

A silent car may be great for those of you who enjoy the elegance of silence, but I personally enjoy the sound of an engine firing up, or revving to the limit just before a powerful shift into second. To me, the lack of sound actually takes the fun out of driving anything that is performance based. Taking the sound away from a fast car is like taking its soul, or its heartbeat. I am proud of all that horsepower, and I want the immediate area to know I’m unleashing every one of those ponies when I jump on it. I’m sure we won’t see the ZZ here in the U.S. anytime soon, but I have a feeling that sound synthesizers will start popping up in all new model EVs in the near future. Moreover, if you are someone who doesn’t care much for sound, well I’m sure there will be an off switch somewhere.


Ed’s Note:
Am I the only one who sees something wrong with this picture? Electric cars with V-8 noise generators? BMWs with synthetic engine sounds piped into the cabin? Audis with generators to make its diesels sound like sporty V-8s? What the hell? I’m seeing a bunch of kids with playing cards clothes-pinned to their bicycle-wheel spokes, so they don’t have to run out of spit going "Bplt-pblpbl-blpptt" as they ride. Yeah I did it, but I was six. (No disrespect, Robert.)

Luxury cars are supposed to be quiet, hey? When a new Camry, Caddy or Lexus goes by my house at anything less than full throttle, all I hear is tire noise anyway. I don’t see engine boom-boxes on them ("Hey, listen everybody! I have a V-8!"). We’ve been trying to address noise pollution, as much in the country as in the cities, and have made our cars quieter over the years. Now we’re making quiet cars artificially louder? Ridiculous.
I guess H.L. Mencken was right: "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public."

Am I right or wrong? Tell me, please! But in the meantime, better make mine a triple.

2015 Tesla Model S Elizabeta by Larte Design

2015 Tesla Model S Elizabeta By Larte Design High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review here.
Watch for our full review of the GLM ZZ.

Press Release

Roland Corporation and GLM Co., Ltd., have announced an agreement to co-develop a neo-futuristic driving sound generation system for GLM’s electric sports car. In this unprecedented collaboration between the world’s leading electronic musical instrument maker and the manufacturer of Japan’s first mass-marketed electric sports car, the driving sound system will be designed using Roland’s renowned SuperNATURAL® synthesizer technology.

Herbie Hancock, Jimmy Page, George Duke and many more of the world’s most talented musicians have relied on Roland synthesizers to create music. The new driving sound system for GLM’s ZZ model will use this same professional synthesizer technology to produce sonically rich, studio-quality sounds. In addition to refined sound quality, the system will have the ability to change with each driver’s real-time driving experiences. GLM and Roland are committed to creating a driving sound generation system that provides a one-of-a-kind driving experience that rivals anything currently on the market.

Roland’s innovative SuperNATURAL* synthesizer technology will power the ZZ model’s sound generation system with dynamic and dramatic sounds that seamlessly change depending on real-time driving situations like acceleration, deceleration, and motor load variances on sloping roads. This exclusive technology is based on responsiveness, which is especially important when recreating the subtleties of acoustic musical instruments electronically. That same technology will be used to create ingenious neo-futuristic sounds that will give sports car enthusiasts the experience of driving a space ship on the road. Electric sports cars are more popular now than ever, and as environmental concerns escalate, some drivers are learning to appreciate quieter electric engines. Driving sounds are still crucial for many, however ­– especially drivers of high-performance vehicles and those who want to have a fun and fulfilling driving experience.

For decades, the industry standard for reproducing the sound of traditional musical instruments was PCM sampling. The challenge with sampling is that most acoustic instruments respond differently to how hard they are struck, blown or bowed – most acoustic instruments grow brighter as they get louder, for example. By meticulously modeling the subtle characteristics and responsiveness of acoustic instrument sounds, Roland was able to create the most realistic electronic music sounds. Roland’s SuperNATURAL technology makes it possible to recreate these nuances electronically, and will be used to create the best driving sounds possible in the electric sports car.

Main features of the Roland sound generation system:

Generates driving sounds depending on the driving situation (e.g. acceleration, deceleration, and motor load variances)
Roland’s acclaimed SuperNATURAL synthesizer technology is used to synthesize dynamic, neo-futuristic sounds, then reproduce them through the car’s stereo speakers
Driving situations are detected by the system in real time through a car-mounted network that measures the car’s speed, pressure on the accelerator pedal, and load to the power system
Drivers can select from several driving sound types based on their personal preference, including neo-futuristic options
The driving sound system option for GLM’s ZZ model featuring Roland’s sound-making technology will be available this fall.

*Adapted sound engine of Roland’s flagship digital synthesizer.

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