The question of how technology can help us create a more sustainable world is top of mind for many. At HARMAN, we’re constantly looking for untapped, unexpected ways to promote a better world and experience for consumers and a great example of this is the work being done by our leading engineers for in-car audio.

There’s no doubt that the increased popularity of hybrids and electric vehicles has been a big step forward, but there are many other factors contributing to greener vehicles beyond the shift from gas engines. In an industry where every inch counts, automakers are looking to new frontiers for dramatic energy savings – without compromising critical details like a luxuriously silent cabin and a premium sound experience that can make or break buying decisions.

Here to tell your more is Matt Fisch, our VP of global engineering for car audio, who has served on HARMAN’s Sustainability Council for the last two years and can share some of the surprising ways that HARMAN is advancing a future of clean transportation through audio.

Matt Fisch

Q: Car audio isn’t something most people think about when it comes to “going green”. Do you think this is something consumers care about?

A: That’s a great question! HARMAN has conducted market research that shows there is indeed growing consumer expectation for audio and infotainment solutions with eco-friendly attributes.

One study found that 71 percent of respondents said “green” features will have a strong positive influence on their next vehicle purchase decision, and it turns out, half of people expect green technologies to actually perform better than their traditional counterparts. It’s our goal to support the market and continue to develop audio solutions that don’t just sound better, but do so while consuming less power and making a positive impact on the environment.

While car buyers may not know to look for branded technologies like HALOSonic and GreenEdge, they do look for the end-benefits like greater fuel economy, plug-in cars with greater range and quieter cabins.

Q: What are some of the ways HARMAN is innovating audio to support a future of clean transportation?

A: At HARMAN, we have developed several impactful technologies that are available in cars today. Our GreenEdge power management technology effectively delivers twice the sonic performance with half the energy consumption of traditional audio components, resulting in greater fuel efficiency and lower carbon emissions. Through advanced system components and breakthroughs in audio engineering, we’ve been able to reduce the weight of systems by 27 percent, allowing for power savings of up to 80 percent. All of this helps to boost amplifier efficiency by up to 90 percent and ultimately increases sound pressure levels for a better experience all-around.

Another core innovation is HALOsonic, our award-winning suite of sound management solutions. When applied to traditional gasoline and diesel powered vehicles, HALOsonic can help car companies increase fuel economy and reduce CO2 output by cutting down on a car's overall weight—usually by about 45 pounds.  At the same time, a HALOsonic system can actually pay for itself by enabling the automaker to eliminate equivalent cost in conventional noise insulating materials.

Q: How can controlling the sounds in and around a vehicle affect its fuel efficiency?

A: I’ll illustrate that with two scenarios. The first involves noise cancellation. For instance, noise created by the drone of tires on the pavement or the constant hum of the engine causes fatigue and distraction. Traditional NVH (noise, vibration, and harshness) dampening methods add significant weight to the vehicle. We’ve circumvented this by designing a HALOSonic solution that generates anti-noise to counteract the unwanted, low-frequency noises from the vehicle’s environment while at the same time, preserving music signals inside the cabin for a truly uncompromised listening experience.

In the second case, we create sound—for example, to ensure the safety of electric vehicles or to restore the feel of performance in vehicles that now have smaller engines driven by efficiency requirement. HALOsonic also meets the federal requirements for producers of super-quiet hybrid and electric cars to make their vehicles sound like conventional autos to alert pedestrians and cyclists. We’ve designed the technology to be highly cost-effective for OEM’s as well, so this solution is helping to get more electric vehicles on the road for a cleaner environment.

Q: What do you see as the opportunities for future in-cabin technologies that promote fuel efficiency and lower environmental impact?

A: We are only in the early stages of what is possible and HARMAN is in a unique position to tackle the next wave of opportunities to further reduce the environmental impact of our customer’s vehicles. The growing popularity of electric vehicles will require much more sophisticated techniques to reduce the in- cabin noise that isn’t already masked by the sound of a combustion engine. This ultimately boils down to the need to develop even more advanced noise cancellation algorithms, in-cabin acoustics design and the computing power to make it all work. HARMAN’s Connected Car and Connected Services divisions have been a key partner for us in terms of providing the necessary “supercomputing” capabilities that makes it possible to implement such solutions in a cost effective way. This is an example of where HARMAN's combined capabilities truly stand alone in the industry!

Secondly, we are conducting extensive market research with regard to the evolving behaviors and preferences of the end consumers of our technology. For instance, millennials who are trending to more eco-conscious preferences and portable music consumption habits have lead us to concepts such as Voyager Drive which we launched at CES 2016.  A fundamental benefit behind this concept is providing a scalable low weight alternative to a traditional in-car audio system as a way to bring premium sound to smaller, fuel efficient vehicles and EV's.