BMW electric car sounds are being made by film composer Hans Zimmer

Electric cars will sound epic, if Hans Zimmer has his way.
Electric cars will sound epic, if Hans Zimmer has his way.
Image: BMW
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For motor heads, one of life’s most satisfying sounds is the roar of a powerful engine. But unlike traditional cars, electric vehicles are practically silent. To fill the void, BMW has enlisted Hollywood film composer Hans Zimmer to create the sounds for its future electric cars.

Zimmer, whose award-winning scores include The Dark Knight, Inception, Interstellar, The Lion King, and 12 Years a Slave, worked with Renzo Vitale, an acoustic engineer at the German carmaker, to make “drive sounds” and “sound signs” for BMW’s Vision M Next.

That concept sports car debuted this week in Munich at the new NEXTGen event, essentially the carmaker’s own auto show. Zimmer’s work is part of “BMW IconicSounds Electric,” a sound offering for future electric cars. “As the range of electrified models increases, a gap in the emotionality of the driving experience arises in the driver’s seat,” the carmaker said this week. The new sounds are designed to fill that gap so that drivers don’t feel “alienated” from their vehicles. You can hear one composition from Zimmer in the audio clip below:

BMW has been tinkering with noises for electric cars for about a decade now. The collaboration with Zimmer, however, shows it’s making a bigger push into cooler, more distinctive sounds. The infinitely modifiable nature of the sounds are a unique feature for electric cars that gives automakers another way to distinguish themselves, both among drivers and the pedestrians who hear the vehicles whir by. It also opens a new line of work for composers and musicians.

Governments around the world are setting targets and introducing regulations to speed up the switch to electric cars, though battery and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles still make up less that 2% of car sales in Europe. BMW’s chief financial officer, Nicolas Peter, told the Financial Times (paywall) earlier this week that the company expects profits from selling electric cars to catch up to those of its other cars by 2025.