Skip to main content

Fake engine noises in electric cars need to die

Ford Mustang Mach-E Rally driving on a dirt road.

You finally get that notification that the electric car you ordered months ago is ready for pickup. You get to the location, sit in the car and turn it on. Pulling out into the road, you hear something — a strange noise you didn’t quite expect. You expected the sweet quietness of a full electric vehicle. But is that … engine noise?

It is and it isn’t. As humans, we’ve been so used to the sound of an engine for so long that carmakers think we’ve associated that low-frequency rumble with performance and quality. So, what are they doing? That’s right — they’re pumping fake engine noises through the speakers in your electric car.

Yeah, it’s pretty dumb.

A rundown of fake noise

To be fair, not all EV manufacturers use fake engine noises — but a good portion of them do, and they seem to be split into two categories.

First, there are the cars that try and emulate real engines. The Mustang Mach-E does this, and the sound is different depending on the drive mode that you’re in. The Dodge Hornet R/T does this too, with a little more attention to detail by using only specific speakers to ensure that the noise sounds like it’s coming from a certain direction. Recently, the Hyundai Ioniq 5 N made headlines for its fake engine noises aimed at replicating the noise of a rally car.

Hyundai N|The all-new IONIQ 5 N World Premiere

The other category of fake car noise is aimed at creating a more futuristic experience. Mercedes-Benz has become somewhat famous for this with cars like the EQS, which can generate an array of crazy-sounding noises when you hit that accelerator.

To be clear, these fake noises are for the benefit of the driver. There are laws in place about cars generating noise outside the cabin, to alert pedestrians of the car’s presence, for example. This has nothing to do with what we’re talking about — these noises are different from those that cars generate inside the cabin.

A realistic simulation

So why are carmakers doing this? Well, it seems to have to do with carmakers wanting to simulate the experience of driving a gas-powered car — and it doesn’t end with fake noises.

2025 Mercedes-Benz EQS sedan front-quarter view.

Toyota, for example, is building a simulated stick shift that will let drivers “change gears,” and some reports indicate that the system may even pretend to stall if the driver incorrectly shifts. That seems a little crazy.

It feels like a big game of pretend. What’s the difference between hearing fake noises and shifting fake gears in an EV, and doing so in Gran Turismo on PlayStation? A more realistic simulation?

It’s all about options

The good news is that for the most part, carmakers allow you to turn fake interior noise off — though there are some exceptions. But why is it the default in the first place? In 30 years, are we going to be driving around in our self-driving pods hearing fake car engine noises from a different era?

There’s nothing inherently wrong with missing the experience of driving a gas-powered vehicle and wanting to simulate that in your shiny new EV. You do you — you can pretend you’re driving a race car all you want.

Rear three quarter view of the 2023 Kia EV6 GT-Line.
Stephen Edelstein / Digital Trends

But I can’t help but feel a little silly when those settings are default. Maybe I’m just too self-conscious — but this is especially true when I’m driving someone else. I’m lucky enough to get to drive review cars a lot, and my wife won’t miss a beat in making fun of any electric car that doesn’t embrace the silence that’s supposed to be synonymous with an EV experience.

EVs have no soul

For the most part, building in things like fake engine noises seems to have a lot to do with the idea that electric cars have “no soul” — or that they’re essentially big appliances with a complete lack of personality.

I get it. Electric cars often feel the same to drive, whether they’re cheaper crossovers like the Ioniq 5, or luxury EVs like the Mercedes-Benz EQS.

Front three-quarters view of a 2023 Kia EV6 GT in a desert setting.
Christian de Looper / Digital Trends

But relying on things like fake noises feels like a crutch — and it seems very lazy. Carmakers are relying on a simulated experience to make their cars more unique, instead of actually innovating and competing on more important features. I’m not sure I would go as far as to say that EVs are being held back by simulated driving experiences, but it does seem like a pretty lame way of answering critics that argue that electric cars are boring.

I actually don’t think these kinds of features will stick around, at least in any meaningful way. Enthusiasts aside, EV buyers want the big appliance experience. They want a quiet car that’s easy to drive, and I think carmakers will embrace this more and more. Hopefully, however, they continue to do a little more to innovate in the space too, though.

Editors' Recommendations

Christian de Looper
Christian’s interest in technology began as a child in Australia, when he stumbled upon a computer at a garage sale that he…
The R3 is Rivian’s surprise electric crossover
Rivian R3

Rivian didn't just announce the R2 platform at its latest launch event -- in a surprise twist, it also announced the R3 crossover. The R3 is Rivian's smallest car yet, offering a size much closer to the likes of the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6 than the SUVs that came before it.

Of course, not only is the Rivian R3 smaller, but presumably, it's also cheaper. Rivian didn't reveal actual pricing for the car, but it did say that it would be less than the R2's $45,000 price. Also, it may be some time before we start seeing the R3 on the road -- the car will follow the R2, which isn't set to be available until the first half of 2026.

Read more
2024 Dodge Charger Daytona reinvents the muscle car for the EV era
Front three quarter view of the 2024 Dodge Charger Daytona coupe.

Dodge is finally getting into the EV game, and what better way to start than with a new version of the Charger? While seemingly tailor-made for an electric car, the Charger name also carries the weight of heritage. That led Dodge to take a very different approach with its first EV.

Arriving later this year (with pricing to be determined), the 2024 Dodge Charger Daytona is the replacement for the old gasoline Charger sedan and Dodge Challenger coupe. It tries to appeal to fans of those cars with retro styling, muscle-car sound effects, and an emphasis on performance over efficiency. And if that doesn’t work, Dodge plans to sell a gasoline version as well.
A design straight out of the 1960s

Read more
Here’s how Ford will give EV customers Tesla Supercharger access
Ford EVs at a Tesla Supercharger station.

Ford announced last year that it would adopt the Tesla North American Charging Standard (NACS) for EV fast charging, granting Ford drivers access to the Tesla Supercharger network. Now, the automaker is providing a little more detail on exactly how that will work.

In the original May 2023 announcement, Ford said owners of existing EVs — which use the Combined Charging Standard (CCS) instead of NACS — would be able to charge at Supercharger stations via an adapter. Today, the automaker announced that the adapter developed by Tesla is now available to order. EV owners can order one free adapter per vehicle through Ford's website between now and June 30. The adapter will otherwise retail for $230. Ford plans to begin building new vehicles with NACS connectors in the near future.

Read more