130,000 electric vehicles (EVs) are sold every week – they are the future of automobiles. But auto brands, governments, and consumers have identified one aspect noticeably absent from these cars – sound.
To reinvigorate the experience between driver and electric vehicle, and reinvent perceptions of EVs, BMW created the revolutionary IconicSounds Electric initiative; a visionary sound offer created to shape the world around us.
BMW has long been developing new sound concepts for EVs, so there was no better partner for this project than Grammy and Academy Award-winning composer, Hans Zimmer.
As pioneers of automotive innovation, acoustic engineers from the BMW Group have been working on artificially-generated sound for electric vehicles since 2009. They aimed to satisfy increased legal and safety regulations but still lacked that audible connection back to drivers who have grown accustomed to the sounds of their automobiles.
BMW IconicSounds Electric is quite literally creating the sounds of the future and making them a reality today.
Without the presence of a loud combustion engine, the vehicle becomes a blank canvas. We fostered the collaboration between BMW and Zimmer to create the future sounds of electric vehicles. This first-to-market concept has changed the conversation and acted as the catalyst for development industry-wide. While all electric automotive brands are developing sounds to comply with governmental regulations, none has developed a partnership with someone as accomplished and decorated as Zimmer, whose musical accolades span four decades.
The BMW IconicSounds Electric project is based on a wide-ranging international collaboration, with recordings taken from Zimmer’s studios in Los Angeles and London, BMW’s sound lab in Munich and a host of virtual sessions.
The process of creating these innovative sounds starts with Hans Zimmer and the BMW Group developing a shared understanding of the technological and emotional goals for the new soundscapes. Zimmer and Renzo Vitale - BMW's Creatve Director of Sound - then reimagine these emotions as melodic elements and consider what emotions could be aroused by each sound. They often use traditional instruments but in a novel way, allowing them to redefine the potential offered by certain musical resources.
BMW IconicSounds Electric was developed with the driver’s emotional experience in mind. While creating the sounds that can be heard in the cabin of electrified BMW models, care was taken to ensure that the driver is guided by the soundtrack rather than being overwhelmed by it.
Says Zimmer, “This is a unique opportunity to not just help design the sound of future electric vehicles, but also have an impact on the soundtrack of tomorrow’s cities. For the first time since the industrial revolution, we have a unique opportunity to redesign and redefine the sounds of our cities. And we are not restricted in any way by mechanical limits.”
This campaign is not just a marketing concept, but a practical and innovative use of sound for the production vehicles of today and tomorrow, bringing an emotional connection between vehicle and driver and shaping the world around them, all with sustainability in mind.
As the focal point of IconicSounds Electric, BMW launched the MyModes sounds at CES 2022 with a live press conference with Zimmer and an immersive sound tunnel where guests were able to walk through a 360-degree sound experience, bringing Zimmer’s sounds to life with an immersive interactive light show. CES also featured the debut of Theatre Mode featuring Zimmer sounds, a Zimmer-narrated Joytopia metaverse experience, and an immersive digital concept vehicle installation, Dimensions of Real, featuring Zimmer sounds.
After over two years of development since the partnership was announced, the full suite of BMW IconicSounds Electric sounds are actually rolling out in production vehicles available to the public, with a large-scale public introduction that took place at CES 2022 in Las Vegas. While the start/stop sounds were available in some BMW models in 2021, the automaker debuted the BMW i4 and BMW iX in 2022, both featuring the full suite of sounds. Other vehicles also have the capability to import these new sounds into suitably equipped vehicles via Remote Software Upgrade.
The initiative continues to capture worldwide press attention, highlighted by cover stories in GQ in the UK, Vanity Fair Italy, Wired UK, Rolling Stone, and an in-depth piece internationally in Forbes, in addition to dozens of other featured content and cover stories.
The brand continues to innovate through its concept vehicles, such as the BMW i Vision Circular concept, which uses circular economy principles to expand on the unwavering commitment to sustainability. With the aim of achieving 100% use of recycled materials alongside bio-based raw materials, BMW unlocks the new standard of progressive design.
IconicSounds Electric is achieving something truly unique by merging automotive, environmental, and music and sound enthusiasts into one forward-thinking cause. This is only the beginning for this first-of-its-kind campaign.
Ultimately, we created an emotional connection out of silence and spearheaded an industry-wide movement around sound, all while promoting a sustainable future.
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