Nissan LEAF Electric Car Races Quietly for International Noise Awareness Day

We all know that electric cars are usually far quieter than their gasoline or diesel powered counterparts. Those who already drive electric cars usually list that quiet, serene experience afforded them behind the wheel as one of the biggest bonuses to driving a plug-in car. On the other hand, those who don’t drive electric often complain that electric cars are just too quiet: that they’ll knock over unsuspecting cyclists, hit grannies walking across the road, and mow down the visually impaired.

Welcome to the new Nissan LEAF sport: racing around alpine villages late at night.

Welcome to the new Nissan LEAF sport: racing around alpine villages late at night.

To tackle that last problem and make the presence of low-speed electric cars more obvious, automakers have often added artificial noisemakers to their cars, making them sound like a cross between a conventional car and a spaceship. Recently, the inclusion of noise-makers on cars in Europe has become mandatory, putting an end to the spectre of the silent ‘killer electric car.’

But in an amusing publicity stunt to promote its Nissan LEAF electric car, Nissan has headed to a sleepy Swiss village in the dead of night to promote International Noise Awareness Day. Its task? To race four Nissan LEAF electric cars through the Swiss village of Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur.

There are plenty of added sound effects too.

There are plenty of added sound effects too.

It’s all a little tongue-in-cheek.

The accompanying YouTube video below shows the whole stunt, from the Nissan folks setting up as the residents of Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur sleep, through to the adrenaline-fuelled (but very quiet) race. 

Of course, the whole thing is in fact staged, much like Renault’s recent remote control ZOE stunt. Like the remote-controlled ZOE slotcars, this particular video comes with its own brand of special effects, including sped up footage, some extra electric car ‘whooshes’ and a few tyre squeals for added bang.

Take a man in a crash helmet, add some special effects and a Nissan LEAF for this fun ad

Take a man in a crash helmet, add some special effects and a Nissan LEAF for this fun ad

Despite a collision with some trash cans and a narrow arch, no-one of course gets woken by the nocturnal race, and everyone continues slumbering sweetly without a problem.  And, demonstrates Nissan, it shows that electric cars are silent, exciting and of course, zero emissions.

The whole thing is rather amusing and kind of cute, but the thing which makes us laugh the most is the added sound effects.

Unlike the recent 60 Minuteswhich added fake internal combustion engine noises to a segment on Tesla Motors — the foley team responsible for the LEAF ad appear to have added appropriate electric-car swooshes. But what we found amusing was the fact that a staged advert by Nissan included sound effects to make the LEAFs sound more space-age, in the process probably increasing the noise output more than it would be in the real world.

And that, in an ad designed to highlight the quietness of the LEAF and electric cars in general, is pure advertising gold. There’s just enough realism to make you think twice, but think any longer and it’s pretty obvious what you’re watching is a very carefully staged stunt.

What do you think? Do obviously staged stund-ads help or hinder the cause of electric cars? Is it too tounge-in-cheek? And do you think anyone watching it really would believe the ad is real? Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.


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  • CDspeed

    Two young girls, sisters, were struck by a car recently in a city close to where I live. They were on their way to school, one of them is still in the hospital, the other didn’t make it. I know the busy six lane road they crossed the sound of the traffic is so loud you have to raise your voice to speak, and there were no electric or hybrid cars involved, and neither girl was blind or hard of hearing. It doesn’t matter how much noise a car makes, accidents happen, the girls I mentioned, darted across the road, they were not in a cross walk, drivers had no way of seeing them in time. An electric car generating artificial sound may help avoid mistakes, but cars make plenty of sound now and it makes very little difference. But I’m not against sound generation, I’m sure it will be helpful, the only car I’ve experienced with a sound system is the Fisker Karma. It’s one of the few things Fisker got right, on one of my test drives the salesman pulled the Karma up, and told me to jump in while he retrieved a license plate. It was running, and the artificial sound wasn’t loud but gave the car greater presence, it was a unique sound too, as stated in the article it was half ICE and half space ship. And you couldn’t hear it in the car so you still get that relaxing quiet electric ride. So the sound helps those around you, and it makes the electric car sound like the car of the future not an ICE impersonator, I’d say go for it but don’t rush let’s make sure it gets done right.