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Yamaha develops fake exhaust sounds

It’s been suggested as a joke in the past, but now Yamaha is developing it for real – computer generated exhaust notes for electric motorcycles and cars.

Electric bikes have been criticised by some for lacking the soul of a petrol motorcycle, whether it’s the deep rumble of a V-twin or the high pitched wail for a four-cylinder superbike.

Hideo Fujita, a sound developer at the company, told the business news service Bloomberg that the device would mimic the sound of an ICE engine as well as other noises. “Even one that sounds like Star Wars.” But it’s not just about emotion – Yamaha engineers believe that sound is crucial for the rider to have a sense of control and speed. Yamaha is especially well qualified to work on fake exhaust sounds, being well known as a manufacturer of musicial instruments. An internal division called Alive is currently working on the EV exhaust sound device.

“The BMF have already received emails from members of the public with visual impairments, concerned at the lack of noise produced by e-bikes,” said BMF Chairman Jim Freeman. “In some cases they have only narrowly avoiding a collision when crossing the road. We’re pleased that manufacturers are addressing this. It certainly makes a change from the traditional complaint about motorcycles & noise, which is that there’s too much. Damned if we do, damned if we don’t!”

But fake motorcycle sounds also raises the spectre of legal action. Just as Harley-Davidson attempted to trademark its potato-potato sound back in the 1990s, could we see Ducati attempt the same with the sound 90-degree V-twins, Triumphs with triples and Royal Enfield with singles? Probably not – Harley’s case was rejected by the law courts. Meanwhile, BMW is also working on fake exhausts for its electric cars.

Written by Peter Henshaw

Top photograph courtesy of Yamaha