BMW i3 e-car e-drive exterior sound exterior sound system

BMW i3: eDrive exterior sound

Increasing air pollution, rising noise levels and ever growing numbers of cars on the roads leading to more and more traffic jams have provoked criticism of our transport systems and technologies as well as criticism of our use of finite energy sources such as oil. Especially our reliance on the traditional combustion engine has been challenged. One alternative to the combustion engine in cars is the electric motor. Currently it is unclear whether the eCar can gain acceptance. However, if it does it will change the noise of traffic as we know it.

The electric motor itself makes hardly any noise. Especially when the eCar is slow and the wheels or the wind do not produce any additional sound, this silence may be dangerous for pedestrians, cyclists and other cars. They would not be able to hear the oncoming vehicle and could walk/cycle/drive right in front of it. Therefore some companies have introduced exterior sound systems that are supposed to warn other traffic participants. An EU-law, which has been issued in 2014, states that from 2019 onwards all new models of electric vehicles have to issue some sort of noise. These sounds are designed by sound designers. The sounds do not simply mimic the sound of combustion engines but have their own means to signal acceleration and slowing down.

The BMW i3 is one of the electric cars produced by the Bavarian company BMW. In this recording you can hear what BMW calls “eDrive exterior sound”. It is a sound which is played via external loudspeakers up to a speed level of 25 kilometres per hour and can be activated and deactivated by the driver. The turbine-like sound, however, is more reminiscent of a spaceship than a car.

The BMW i3 that has been recorded here is part of, a car sharing company for electric cars within the Ruhr Area. The recording device was positioned underneath the bonnet, while the car drove along a small side street.

Photographer: Kathinka Engels
Sound Recordist: Kathinka Engels


18.9 MB
32 s
2 (Stereo)
Sample rate:
Bit rate:
Bit depth:
96 kHz
4608 kb/s
32 bit

Recorded on April 5, 2018
e-car sharing company
Dortmund, GERMANY
Creative Commons License