My car is in the shop, and I have a Toyota Prius as a loaner. It’s rather nice, a hybrid (as everyone knows) between an electric car and one that uses gasoline (or petrol). “You know,” said my companion as we test-drove the Prius and considered it as a possible next car, “They’re coming out with the Nissan Leaf soon. All-electric.”
All electric cars, it seems, have two problems. Refuelling on long hauls is one, which will eventually be fixed with infrastructure improvements as stations come up that will switch batteries for you like the post-houses of old switched horses.
The second is, they’re too silent. This makes them a danger to pedestrians, bicyclists, and animals that are accustomed to the sound of predatory motor vehicles approaching. Already the European Union is considering requiring manufacturers to add sound: Natural sounds, artificial engine noise, or Star Wars sounds.
We suggest ring-tones. Drivers could customize the noises made by their cars (which may also reflect not only the driver’s personality but also about how the car’s being driven). “Yo, -itch, get out my way,” is likely to say something different from “The Ride of the Valkyries” or “Baby You Can Drive My Car.” (I couldn’t think of any particularly appropriate Bollywood tunes – add them in comments if you have suggestions?)
Besides, it offers endless ways to annoy one’s fellow citizens. It would have cellphone ring tones beat hollow.
[ETA Feb 2011: So in India, they’re one jump ahead. The car I hired had a ring-tone… every time the driver reversed, loud music informed everyone that the car was backing up.]