The 1970s called and they want their icons back, after Renault lassoed French digital music maestro Jean-Michel Jarre to give a unique sound to their electric vehicles (EVs).
The move by Renault signals the beginnings of an EV sound war, after BMW enlisted US-based German composer Hans Zimmer to create unique sound profiles for its i4, iX and i7 electric cars.
French brand Renault, which also controls Nissan and Dacia, are newer entrants to the artificial sound scape of EVs, announcing its Scénic Vision concept car this week.
Said to be a precursor for sustainable development and in-car technology, the Scénic Vision is a “less is more” car, with Renault insisting on an audio system that uses as few components as possible.
“It is a sustainable tech approach for the benefit of passenger and the on-board experience,” Renault said.
“It has an innovative audio system which features mid-bass speakers located in each door with ‘sound bubbles’ installed in each head rest. Passengers thus benefit from augmented, immersive, high-quality acoustics that are specific to each passenger.”
BMW, meanwhile, snaffled local-boy-made-good Zimmer because a brand know for the sweetness of its in-line six-cylinder engines couldn’t suddenly just fall silent in the EV transition.
It also wanted Zimmer to tailor sounds and characters for its cars, like the BMW iX M60 adding in noise that wasn’t intrinsically generated by the electric motors to give drivers the sound effects to match the driving modes.
Oddly, he’d be retired this year if he’d remained in the German employment system, but he was approached three years ago to help BMW and its sub-brand, Mini.
So the EV sound battle lines are drawn, with Zimmer’s collection of two Oscars, two Emmys, four Grammys and a single Tony award, up against Jarre’s six unfulfilled Grammy nominations.
Zimmer, 65, won an Oscar for his music in The Lion King and picked up another one for Dune last year, and he scored films like Gladiator, Pirates of the Caribbean, Interstellar, Dunkirk and the Dark Knight trilogy on his way to heading up the Dreamworks music division.
Both artists made their name with electronic-based music, with the 74-year-old Jarre bursting to fame with his home-made Oxygene in 1976, which was also used in the award-winning 1981 movie Gallipoli.
Renault has entrusted Jarre to create a new sound signature for all of its EVs – and Renault consistently ranks amongst the top three or four EV makers in the world.
That Jarre signature covers everything from the welcome sound when the driver opens the door, the entire audio system, down to its algorithms, speaker locations and components, and even the sound the cars emit below 20mph to warn pedestrians.