BMW IconicSounds: Can an EV Sound Better Than a Combustion Engine?

by Gabrielle DeSantis

Many drivers resistant to electric vehicles have cited the same reason for sticking to gas-powered cars. Electric vehicles have no exhaust note. Many feel that the roar of an engine is a sacred part of driving. BMW is here to solve that feeling of loss and revolutionize the way we hear cars.

A Native Instruments Maschine Studio | Adam Gasson/Future via Getty Images

Iconic composer Hans Zimmer worked on the BMW IconicSounds project

Hans Zimmer is one of the most legendary names in music. He’s composed music for over 150 films over the course of his Academy Award-winning career. His work on films like Bladerunner 2049, Dune, and The Dark Night displays the talent he has for creating other-worldly sounds.

BMW hired Zimmer to develop the sound of its newest generation of EV vehicles. He worked alongside Renzo Vitale, Creative Director Sound at BMW Group. The two shared a vision and passion for creating something original.

The goal was to create a sound that gave drivers and even more exciting and joyful driving experience than gas powered cars ever had. BMW drivers are accustomed to the extraordinary. Electric vehicle drivers readily embrace new idea. Both will appreciate the unforgettable sound of a BMW EV.

What inspires the sound of an EV?

BMW iX3 EV | Andreas Gebert/Bloomberg via Getty Images


BMW developed a melodic voice for it’s new EVs that is meant to convey all of the power and elegance of a well-engineered car. EV sound profiles have to alert pedestrians to the presence and speed of a car as well as give other drivers warning. This soundscape communicates so much more. It distills the next evolution of the automobile.

Many themes were tapped to draw inspiration for BMW’s IconicSounds. The team knew they wanted to create a sound that evoked the goosebumps iX3 drivers feel as they accelerate. They wanted to capture the essence of power, force, and explosion and create a sense of flowing energy.

Some familiar sound patterns emerge in the one-of-a-kind engine note. Drivers will immediately recognize the sounds of speed, power, and momentum, even if they sound alien. BMW IconicSounds captures the spirit of the automobile in its next evolution.

Can BMW make EVs sound better than ICE?

BMW logo | Spencer Platt via Getty Images


The BMW iX3 sounds like no other car on earth. It sounds extraterrestrial, otherworldly, and strangely satisfying. The BMW IconicSounds development team set out to make a sound as satisfying as the roar of a gas-powered engine. They may have done something better.

The composition Zimmer helped develop would sound at home in a dystopian film. It captures the emotion and texture of the engine and exhaust sounds of driving without mimicking the sound of cars already in production. BMW created something unique.

IconicSounds instantly communicates to the listener what’s happening inside the car without sounding like shifting gears or revving engines. BMW has made the sound of energy in motion. But can it ever feel the same as the low growl of a combustion engine?

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