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Here's what the Volkswagen ID 3 electric car sounds like

It's far from what we're used to hearing, but it sounds cool in its own right.

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Every EV will need to make an alert tone come 2020 in the US.

Craig Cole

Electric cars mark a Wild West period in many areas, but there's one drivers likely don't often think about: the sound a car makes. The norm has been a soundtrack from whatever internal-combustion engine is under the hood, but EVs operate at a nearly silent hum.

Regulations in both Europe and the US now require electric cars to make noise under a certain speed, in order to alert pedestrians, but automakers are free to design and engineer the sound for their vehicles. Volkswagen on Thursday shared what its first electric car, the ID 3, will sound like.

Appropriately, it's very futuristic and a bit like what the world likely thought flying cars would sound like in the mid-20th century. There's a digital whoosh apparent in the acceleration clip, which we can't embed, but can link to right here. The first part of the clip demonstrates what the ID 3 will sound like as the driver tips into the throttle. The latter part of the clip produces a reverse tone as the the electric hatchback comes to a stop.

These noises keep pedestrians and bystanders aware of vehicles around them, and it's especially helpful for those with disabilities. In Europe, noise must be present under about 18 mph. After that, tires and wind produce sufficient noise to keep everyone safe, regulatory bodies have agreed.

We won't get the ID 3 here in the US. But we may still hear this tone with VW's first electric car for the US, which will be an SUV and likely wear the ID 4 badge.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has finally approved the US' own regulations. They require "quiet cars" to make sound up until 18.6 mph. Right now, 50% of silent cars must include an alert tone, but come 2020, every single car will need a tone. NHTSA said these rules will prevent 2,400 injuries annually. Just think if you couldn't hear an electric car crawling around a parking lot while you're walking. There's definitely some danger in the scenario.

As for noises in the future, NHTSA is also leaving that pretty wide open. In September, NHTSA sought public comment on allowing drivers to choose their own tone, or if it should limit the alert noises to select sounds. If the public is eventually allowed to pick their own tone, prepare for some pretty ridiculous sounding electric cars.

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