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Nissan uses combustion-engine sounds to create lullaby tracks for the Leaf EV

Here’s one for the “find an EV non-problem” file. Nissan cites research that says 60% of parents with children under age 2 lull their kids to sleep by taking them on a drive. The Japanese automaker claims that the “soothing sound frequencies of an internal combustion engine are the biggest contributor to a child falling asleep in the car.” In other words, a non-polluting EV like the Leaf won’t get the job done without piping in combustion noise.

So Nissan worked with Tom Middleton, a sound designer and sleep coach, to produce five, three-minute lullaby tracks. The music combines interior and exterior recordings from the Leaf with, according to Middleton, “combustion-engine frequencies that only children can hear.”

The lullabies were recorded in an acoustic chamber in Bedfordshire, England, using a gas-powered Nissan Qashqai and an all-electric Nissan Leaf. On some tracks, other car-related sounds, like jingling keys and indicator signals, were added. Project researchers say when played over a car stereo in an electric vehicle, the new lullabies can have the same impact on a sleeping baby as a drive in a gas-powered car.

Listen for yourself:

Nissan found that parents spend an average of 20 to 25 minutes on a “dream drive,” covering up to five miles on a single outing. The company said driving in a Nissan Leaf avoids up to 70,000 grams of CO2 emissions every year, based on a 15-minute dream drive once a week.

Middleton added that the project is “the world’s first collaboration with a car as featured artist.”

Nissan Leaf at night

Paul Speed-Andrews, noise and vibration development manager at Nissan, said:

An EV like the Nissan Leaf is a better choice for dream driving, although we are aware that the quiet soundscape might not be as effective as ICE cars. Combustion engines transmit a sound frequency, a combination of white, pink, and brown noise varied in tone — creating an orchestral soundscape that is especially soothing and comforting to children.

Electrek’s Take

While the idea of getting parents to use an EV for so-called sleep drives is laudable, it’s not clear whether internal-combustion frequencies are any more effective than the countless existing lullabies that could be played in a car. So this overly clever marketing idea lands with a resounding thud.

Nissan played up the project as revolutionary. Ari Peralta, an interdisciplinary researcher who helped provide research insight on the project, described the ICE-EV soundtracks as the “future of using sound and other sensory elements to improve people’s lives, bringing together multi-sensory science, immersive technologies, and sound design to explore new wellness-led opportunities within mobility.”

C’mon, Nissan. You have a great, affordable electric vehicle in the Leaf. It’s one of the most popular EVs in the world. Kelley Blue Book just last week recognized the Nissan Leaf as the best electric car in its 5-Year Cost to Own Awards for the third consecutive year.

We know the lullaby idea is just a bit of fun. But isn’t it time to stop characterizing the quietness of an EV — one of its best qualities — as a shortcoming?

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Avatar for Bradley Berman Bradley Berman

Bradley writes about electric cars, autonomous vehicles, smart homes, and other tech that’s transforming society. He contributes to The New York Times, SAE International, Via magazine, Popular Mechanics, MIT Technology Review, and others.