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Ford Motor Co is Working to Make Vehicles Much Quieter on the Inside

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【Summary】Ford Motor Co is initiating a new strategy to reduce outside noises in its future lineup. The company announced its new “Whisper Strategy”, which will deliver incremental noise improvements in future models, many of which will be powered by fully-electric or hybrid powertrains. The goal is to help make road trips more comfortable and less tiring for drivers and passengers.

FutureCar Staff    Apr 21, 2020 2:45 PM PT
Ford Motor Co is Working to Make Vehicles Much Quieter on the Inside

Passengers and drivers often equate a quieter car as being more luxurious. Most automakers agree that blocking out outside noises can create a more tranquil and pleasant environment for vehicle occupants, unless of course its a sports car. This is especially true for electric cars, which have nearly silent powertrains and are not as good at keeping outside noises at bay.

This is why Ford of Europe is initiating a new strategy to reduce outside noises in its future lineup. 

The automaker announced its new "Whisper Strategy", which will deliver incremental noise improvements in future models, many of which will be powered by fully-electric or hybrid powertrains. The goal is to help make road trips more comfortable and less tiring for drivers and passengers, which is always a good thing.

Ford's "Whisper Strategy"

For the new Kuga SUV, which is Ford's best-selling SUV in Europe and the No. 3 best-selling Ford vehicle in the region according to the company, the automaker is examining noise generating elements from the suspension to the door seals to help find ways to optimize interior refinement and make the cabin quieter. 

Among the improvements that Ford made to the Kuga was to add perforations to the leather seat bolsters in the upscale Kuga Vignale, which the company said reduced the total area of flat surfaces inside the cabin in order to absorb noise rather than reflect it.

In the undercarriage of the Kuga Vignale, Ford added what it calls "aerodynamically-tuned sound shields" that help limit road and wind noise entering from outside. Ford also reduced the size of the channels behind the exterior body panels that are designed to allow wiring and other components to pass from one area of the vehicle. The redesign of the channels was meant to limit airflow inside the body.

Ford also experimented with different types of tires to further reduce noise from the road surface. Ford said its engineers spent two years testing more than 70 different tires over surfaces from smooth pavement to rough concrete, in both wet and dry conditions. 

The tests were done at various speeds to find the best tire design that kept road noise to a minimum, at the same time offering good traction and comfort.

"Our ‘whisper strategy' is designed to make journeys as quiet as they can possibly be – from absorbing sound through perforated seats to testing that involves listening carefully to the different sound patterns created by dozens of different tires." said Glen Goold, Ford Kuga chief program engineer.

Perhaps the most important noise reduction strategies apply to the electric and plug-in hybrid versions of the Kuga SUV. The Kuga's new "EV Now" drive mode switches off the gas engine and powers the vehicle using only the battery and electric motor. The interior road noise level of just 52 dB(A) was achieved in controlled tests – equivalent to a gentle rainfall, Ford says.

The Kuga Plug-In Hybrid Vignale also includes Active Noise Cancellation technology. The system works the same way as popular noise-cancelling headphones from Bose or Sony. 

The noise cancelling system detects unwanted low-frequency cabin sounds from strategically-placed microphones throughout the cabin and counteracts them with an opposing soundwave, which comes from Bang and Olufsen audio systems.

"The all-new Kuga is our best example yet of Ford's human-centric design approach; developed in close collaboration with SUV customers to deliver distinctive style, unprecedented powertrain choice, premium comfort and advanced technologies that make life easier for owners inside and outside of the car," said Stuart Rowley, president, Ford of Europe.

Ford compared the interior noise levels with that of its older models to demonstrate the reduction in cabin noise over the years. Fox example the 1977 Ford Granda produced peak cabin noise of 83 dB(A) decibels when traveling at 30 mph compared to 69 dB(A) in the new Kuga Vignale plug-in hybrid.

Although it doesn't seem like much when looking at the two decibel numbers, most people perceive one sound to be twice as loud as another one when it's approximately 10 decibels higher, so its a notable improvement.

"We had a clear vision for the Kuga from the very beginning – an approachable and sleek exterior design and an interior that provides a sanctuary space. The result is an SUV that connects with your life in a positive way." said Amko Leenarts, Design Director, Ford Europe in April 2019, when the redesigned Kuga was introduced.

While Ford is looking to make some of its vehicles quieter on the inside, some Ford models, such as the Mustang, intentionally have engine noise piped in, to make them sound more aggressive for the driver. In addition, Ford's fully electric Mach-E SUV will come with enhanced sci-fi sounds built in.

German automaker BMW is also experimenting with adding signature sounds to its future electric models, such as the upcoming i4 sedan, since these fully-electric vehicles produce no engine noise. The enhanced sounds for these electric vehicles are also designed to warn pedestrians to their presence for added safety.

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