The signature roar of a Ferrari will survive the shift to electric under plans being developed by the Italian supercar maker.
Ferrari has patented a method of reproducing the sound of its high-performance petrol and diesel engines as they are revved up in electric models.
The manufacturer says the technology will help preserve the “driving pleasure” of its sports cars as they move to electric.
Battery-powered vehicles typically make far less sound when the accelerator is pressed and performance carmakers have been fretting over how to maintain the personality of their creations. It comes as governments around the world legislate to ban the sale of new petrol cars in years to come.
While luxury car makers who often cater to chauffeur-driven clients are likely to embrace the silence of an electric engine as a selling point, sports cars built by Ferrari and its peers are sought after in part because of their noise and excitement.
“In a high-performance sports car, the sound produced by the engine (usually, an internal combustion engine) and perceived inside a passenger compartment is important, for a significant part of the “driving pleasure” of a high-performance sports car is due to the very sound produced by the engine,” Ferrari’s patent reads.
Chief executive officer Benedetto Vigna told investors last summer that sound is one of the “essentials” that characterises a Ferrari and proclaimed that each engine must have a signature tune, including electric ones.
It would be easy to record an existing combustion engine in action and play back the noise through speakers, but Ferrari has opted to create a new sound that harnesses the moving parts of an electric car, according to a patent it filed earlier this month in the US.
The Italian car marque will amplify sounds from the electric motor and drivetrain, adjusting the note and volume to correlate with the power being delivered to mimic the effect of a petrol engine, according to the filing, first reported by US car website Carbuzz.
As well as sound being delivered into the cabin, it could also be piped outside the vehicle, the patent said, recreating the roar of a sports car accelerating down a road for nearby onlookers.
Germany’s BMW and Dodge in the US are also working on ways of bringing high-performance EVs to life.
Dodge has recreated the throaty thrum of its gas-guzzling muscle cars for its Charger EV, with volumes up to 126 decibels, or approaching rock concert levels.
BMW hired Oscar-winning Hollywood soundtrack composer Hans Zimmer in 2021 to create an “emotionally rich aural experience” for its cars, in a bid to deliver some extra feedback to drivers of its top end i7 luxury sedan. The effects steer well clear of traditional engine noises and recreate sounds more familiar to the sounds of a phone or TV turning on.
Aside from sonic concerns, supercar designers have also been grappling with how to adapt to the move from a manual gearbox, and the associated control over power, to the always-on nature of an electric motor.
Ferrari has been designing a way for its electric car to handle like a mid-engined supercar.
The Italian brand hopes that 80pc of its sales will come from all-electric cars and hybrid models by 2030, with combustion engines contributing 20pc.
Ferrari was spun out of Fiat in 2015 and its shares have gained more than fourfold since then. Ferrari is now worth more than €43bn, not far from the €44bn valuation of Stellantis, which not only owns its former parent Fiat but also Chrysler, Peugeot, Maserati and Vauxhall.
Luxury and sports car makers have had a record run of sales as their wealthy customers splashed out during the pandemic. The shorter production runs associated with higher-end models have helped shield high-end car makers including Ferrari from the parts shortages suffered by mass-market manufacturers in recent years.