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Car noise: are electric cars quieter than gas cars?

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Traffic noise is made up of engine noise, tire noise, road noise, and whistling noise. But do electric cars make less noise than gas cars? Discover the answers in this article. 

Gas car noises: what are the sounds made by a combustion-powered vehicle?

In a combustion-powered vehicle, the main car noise a driver hears (except if there is an issue with the vehicle) is the engine. This car noise is the result of thermodynamics: as heat energy is transformed into mechanical energy to propel the car, the engine’s cylinders produce pulsations (sounds) that are emitted via the exhaust valve. 

Electric car noises: what to expect?

car noise column image

Are electric cars quieter than gas cars? An electric vehicle, by its very nature, doesn’t have an engine. Instead, it has a motor system powered by a battery. Unlike thermodynamics, electromagnetics doesn’t result in noise emissions. As a result, the motor is almost totally silent.

Perhaps even too silent! Electric vehicles are much quieter than gas cars. At low speeds, they are so much quieter.

Tire noise when driving an electric car

The electric car noise that you will hear, however, is the tire noise: the sound of the tires rolling over the road surface (which is often described as a low roaring sound in the car, a bit like a background noise).

Do electric car tires make more noise than combustion-powered ones? No,
If you hear more the tire rolling over the road surface, it’s because an electric motor makes almost no noise. You become more sensitive to any additional noise.

This tire noise depends on the condition of the road that generates vibrations in the cabin. Even on the highway, you don’t always find the same kind of road surface. And it’s here that tire, and automobile manufacturers have a real challenge on their hands. 

Whistling sound from car

Tire noise also depends on the speed you drive. The faster you drive, the more you hear a whistling sound from the car.

This is something Michelin works very hard on in order for drivers to enjoy the electric experience.

For Michelin, the solution to minimizing this tire noise is a complex combination of the tread pattern and the brand’s Acoustic® technology, which reduces perceived interior noise by up to 20%. (1) 

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(1) - noise disturbance - Internal noise measurement, done in 2016 on size 245/45 R19 on KIA Cadenza. Noise level measured in the range "170-230Hz". Results may vary according to vehicle, tire range and size, speed and road conditions.

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