Electric vehicles may be nearly silent, but the Fiat500e makes its presence heard. With our urban landscapes welcoming increasingly more electric vehicles, crossing the road are both safer and more sonically pleasing with the in-vehicle engine sound of the Fiat New 500 electric car. As an engine sound (or AVAS sound) is an EU legal requirement for electric cars driving under 20km/h, the creative challenge was to adhere to strict technical guidelines while making the sound as stand-out as the vehicle itself. Since 1957, The Fiat 500 ‘Cinquecento’ has been an icon of Italian engineering, and its reputation as a charming, cheeky car with style and character has earned it a well deserved position in Italian pop-culture. Our mission was to design the 500e’s voice in a style that honored Fiat’s legacy and heralded its move into the future.
Our process involved a deep collaboration between our team in Japan, a voice-artist based in Helsinki, and a partner music agency based in Milan, to harness the human voice and sculpt an engine sound that would be anthropomorphic. Part of the sound design process centred on how we could alter the sound pitch as the car accelerates, and we were able to model this process using an automated pitch shift in order to keep the sound as smooth and melodic as possible. The voice was then blended into a music track that pays tribute to one of Italy’s greatest film composers, Nino Rota (The Godfather, La Strada, Romeo and Juliet). Marrying the innovative and the organic, we invoked the Japanese sensibility of ‘Wabi Sabi’ (meaning ‘Beauty in Imperfection’) to embrace the natural earthiness of the human voice and create an engine sound that breathes new life into the urban environment.