Posts Tagged sound contest

Every Solution Poses a New Problem

Headline is a quote from this article, which, among other items worthy of attention, addresses a favorite issue of mine: quiet cars.  From the article:

“The electric car will account for 10% of the global market in 10 years,” predicts Carlos Ghosn, chief executive of alliance partners Renault and Nissan in a BBC interview. “It is time for zero emission motoring.”

If Mr. Ghosn and those who think like him are right, then the future looks bleak.

At least, that is, if you are a pigeon.

“Normally, when they hear a car they fly away last minute,” says the man from Sixt, the car rental firm that handles the German energy company RWE’s fleet of electric cars, during the Tesla drive in Frankfurt.

“But when this one comes along, they don’t hear it.”

* * *

If pigeons cannot hear electric cars then perhaps people should worry too?Not at all, insists Volkswagen’s Ulrich Hackenberg as he presses a button on the dashboard of the company’s E-Up concept to release a canned sound of a revving engine.

“Electric cars could sound like this in the future,” he says.

It’s been awhile, but we had heard some rumblings earlier on about the Brammo Enertia’s onboard speakers and the ability to produce a sound at low speed levels.  I haven’t heard anything very recently about this issue, at least since the Enertia was introduced at Portland, Oregon area Best Buy stores.

Perhaps we’ll learn more about it later today or tomorrow, when one of the first Enertias gets delivered to a lucky Iowan, I’ve dubbed, “Hawkeye.”  He’s been emailing me and has confirmed that, absent any calamities, his new bike will be delivered today.  Stay tuned to for updates on the Enertia’s arrival in the Field of Dreams.



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BRAMMO Enertia Powercycle equipped with NXT technology

This morning’s press release from NXT provides some more information about the onboard sound system installed on the Brammo Enertia:

BRAMMO Enertia Powercycle equipped with NXT technology

29 Jul 2009NXT plc, a provider of unique sound solutions, best known for its flat panel loudspeaker solutions, is delighted to announce the Enertia powercycle, a unique design electric motorcycle from USA-based manufacturer BRAMMO Inc, is equipped with NXT’s award-winning SurfaceSound technology.

The first model in the BRAMMO product range, the Enertia powercycle is a contemporary styled motorcycle, drawing upon design elements from classic bike designs combined with a plethora of modern technologies.  Eco-friendly with an exciting performance level, the Enertia has a range of 55 miles from a single charge, and is capable of top speeds in excess of 55 mph.  The Enertia’s six Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries need about four hours to charge before powering the technologically advanced sealed brushless AC electric motor to exhilarating levels of performance – ideal for urban and suburban commuting.

While energy efficient, it is the ultra quiet electric motor that provides the connection to NXT.  In order to ensure other road users, pedestrians and passers-by are aware of the Enertia and its’ rider’s presence, BRAMMO has equipped the cowling of the Enertia’s motor with SurfaceSound technology, giving the powercycle an audible range of sounds.  In addition to a dedicated start-up sound (think audio logo, like your PC) riders can customise the “idle” sound to their own preference.

Environmentally friendly with an exhilarating edge –

BRAMMO’s powercycle, featuring NXT technology

The Enertia’s direct drive system uses no clutch, transmission or gears which makes it simple to operate and the perfect choice for every day riders looking for an environmentally friendly transportation alternative to gas-powered cars or motorcycles.  Engineered from high grade materials and equipped with components from leading motorcycle suppliers, including Brembo, Marrzochi and Elka, the Enertia’s premium-grade brushless motor provides virtually maintenance-free operation and ownership.  Another aspect of the Enertia’s low running costs is its ability to cover around 15,000 miles on just $85 of electricity.

On sale this summer from selected Best Buy outlets in the US, the Enertia is priced from $11,995 and further information is available from

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ZDNet needs to use its Big Boy voice

A “fan blog” such as mine can be expected to get a little silly now and then.  I am the sole owner/operator/writer of this blog and frankly, I’m in it mostly for my own amusement.  Sure, my inspiration is the vision of the Brammo company to “change the world two wheels at time,” but I don’t pretend to have much influence with that.  My blog seeks to compile the Brammo-related news and sprinkle it with a dose of my own insights here and there.  I don’t make money off this blog and given the fact that I’ve only been blogging for a few months, I think the reputational value of is negligible. is a horse of a different color.  It’s been on the internet forever under various names and has a history stretching back to 1927.  So I was a bit surprised to see the latest article about the Brammo Enertia with a title like this:

Brrrrm! Brrrrm! Brammo makes a little noise.

It’s an article about the Enertia’s sound system.  The sound system, as I’ve written about previously, is actually a rather serious subject.  The author of this article apparently didn’t see it the same way:

The chips that manage the operation of this electric motorcycle will create sounds to let folks know you’re there. There’s a special sound for the acceleration from zero to 10 MPH. You can then customize your cycle’s “running sound.” Want to sound like a steam train? The clip-clop of a shod draft horse? Low-flying plane? Suit your fancy.

I might be wrong, but I thought that the Enertia was to have two sounds: the start-up sound, and the low speed sound, also called the “default” sound.  Brammo is going to have a contest soon that will allow participants to submit soundfiles for the default sound.  This leads me to believe that it has already developed, or is in the process of developing, a standard start-up sound.  There is no need for a “running sound” for when the cycle is going over 10 mph as a combination of tire-on-road sound and mechanical (chain drive and motor) sound provides enough of a “heads-up.”

I must admit that I submitted a clip-clop sound to the sound contest’s “unofficial” site, but I’m Brammofan.  I’m not-necessarily-to-be-taken-seriously.  I expected more of a serious journalism take from ZDNet.

The post did have some interesting news:

I spoke recently with Brammo’s Adrian Stewart at the company HQ and factory in Ashland, Oregon. He says Brammo can build a new cycle each hour on the assembly line. They have space and plans to run two lines simultaneously. An assembly team was working on new Enertias while we talked.

A new Enertia every hour, and the potential to double that capacity.  That is definitely new information and newsworthy.

Also new is this:

The Best Buy distribution requires each participating retail location to have trained sales and service personnel and each site must get the appropriate state license as a car dealer. Brammo is deep in the licensing and training process with its BestBuy partners. Much more costly and complicated than online sales.

The article is worth a read for the Brammofanatics but I keep wondering why the writer didn’t bother to mention the reason why Brammo thought it necessary to include a sound system on its bikes.  Another opportunity to bring attention to the challenges of visually-impaired pedestrians lost.

Below, some new pictures of the assembly line included with the article.

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Brammo’s Enertia Sound Contest – The “Why” behind the “Wee!”

We’ve talked before about the upcoming contest proposed by Brammo.  I dissected a leak of a screen-shot that was posted by an intern for CP+B, the ad agency “won” by Brammo’s winning bid in an Ebay auction.  According to that screen shot, the contestants are to come up with a sound file that will play over the Enertia’s onboard speakers while it is traveling under 10 mph, as a “friendly heads-up” for the “world at large.”


Sounds like fun, right? Of course it does.  Who can keep from smiling as they submit the 50th variation of the sound of a playing card slapping against the spokes of a bicycle? Or maybe you’re scanning the web for the perfect rendering of the whirring of George Jetson’s flying car.  I can almost see the poor soul burdened with opening the 2000th sound file to discover, yet again, that someone has synthesized the resonant  sound of their own flatulence as the perfect “Enertia Wave.”  I know I have my sound files ready to go.  Don’t you?

Maybe a little background of why I think Brammo is planning this little stereophonic festival would be helpful for those aspiring THX sound engineers out there.

Why would the world need a “heads-up” at all?  Why only during sub-10 mph?

A. Electric motors are much quieter than internal combustion engines (I.C.E).  Think about your favorite electric golf cart, or your slot-car racers, or your electric train set (minus the Woo-Woo sound).  Ever get surprised by one of those electric shopping carts sneaking up behind you at your grocery store?  Although electric motorcycles make enough sound at higher speeds due to the tire-on-road noise and (at higher speeds yet) due to the increasing sound of the motor or other drive mechanism (chain or belt) to alert your average pedestrian of their approach, that sound is absent at low speeds.

Why would the Enertia need a heads up at low speeds? — I can see the bike just fine.

A. I’m sure you can.  It’s a pretty amazing looking machine.  A real head-turner.  But what if you’re in the parking lot of the grocery store, still a little shaken from getting goosed by granny in her electric shopping cart, and you’re done loading your groceries in your trunk and you grab the shopping cart to return it to the corral (you do return it, don’t you?) and you swing around and *BRAMMO!*

That’s right, I just said *BRAMMO!* because that’s the sound of the shopping cart colliding with the electric motorcycle that was silently cruising the lot, looking for a parking place.  If you’d heard it approaching, you would have waited for it to pass before charging across the aisle to ethically return your cart.  (You don’t usually return it, do you.  Savage.)

Why bother? I’ll just pay more attention.  I’ll look before returning my cart, or crossing the street, or whatever.

A. Because you might not look.  And because not every pedestrian is able to look.  Some of them might be visually impaired.  Blind people depend on their ability to hear an approaching vehicle.

Auditory looming.  It’s all about the brain’s ability to predict the arrival of an object by the sound it makes as it grows closer to you.  Motorcyclists often cite the maxim, “loud pipes save lives” as support for their argument that the sound of their vehicles, particularly that earth-pounding, eardrum rattling roar made by the larger machines, alert all living beings (and some dead ones) that they are in the vicinity.

Studies have shown, however, that in the context of the sub-10mph, parking lot scenario, all that is necessary is a reasonably-audible drone.  Kind of like the sound an I.C.E. makes at that speed.  (For more information on this, watch Professor Lawrence Rosenblum’s video on some of his experiments at the University of California – Riverside.)

Why don’t hybrids like the Prius have some kind of  sound broadcast from speakers when they are traveling at low speeds?

A. Good question.  The thing is, they might have to start doing that according to a law which is currently being considered by the U.S. House and Senate.  It is the “Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2009” and will, if passed, likely require all E.V. manufacturers to install some sort of sound device to alert both blind and sighted pedestrians that a vehicle is approaching.

Not willing to wait for Congress to act, Brammo’s upcoming contest seems to be yet another visionary move to alert the world that the age of electric motorcycles is looming.


For more on this subject, see:

Unintended Consequences: How an Electric Car can kill you, Toronto Star, May 31, 2009.

And for lots of links and other information on the subject:

National Federation of the Blind; Committee on Automobile and Pedestrian Safety/ Quiet Cars:

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