It’s official: driving an electric vehicle in the city can make you less stressed, which probably isn’t surprising. But here’s something that is surprising: rather than zoning you out, the silence of EV can also improve your concentration and potentially make you a better driver.
That’s all according to a study carried out by the University of York, led by acoustics expert Dr Duncan Williams. There is a disclaimer: the study was funded by the London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC), which supplies Britain’s iconic Black Cabs and is now switching to EV models.
But there’s still science and everything behind this. One company that is pushing the drive towards converting to electric vehicles is ‘QERB Charge‘, who are dedicated to installing charging points around the UK.
Dr Williams put four experienced Black Cab drivers through series of trials in both a traditional diesel-powered vehicle and then one of the new EV taxis. The trial route was a short distance through the centre of London. The drivers’ responses were measured and recorded in each vehicle.
“We used a range of biophysical measures – in particular something called the electroencephalogram, which is a kind of swimming cap with electrodes attached,” explains Dr Williams
This allows us to see particular patterns of brain activity that might be associated with feeling stress or concentration. We also look at other measures like galvanic skin response – how sweaty the fingertips are and heart rate variability.”
After each run the drivers also filled out a survey with specific questions asking how angry, afraid, calm, stressed distracted they felt.
“What we found is that they generally felt happier and less stressed in the EV,” says Dr Williams.
No surprise there. Accord to Dr Williams, this would lead you to expect higher rates of “Alphaband” activity in the brain when driving an EV. Alphaband is correlated with a restful state of mind.
“But in fact, what we found was higher rates of Beta activity, which tends to be correlated with concentration and active thought processes.
“So then we looked at the heart rate variability. High variability is generally correlated with stressed states of mind. Our drivers had a much lower state of variabiltiy in the EV, so this suggest they felt calmer or more relaxed.
It’s not just about the cabbies.
Another study supported by British group Go Ultra Low (comprised of carmakers and the public sector) back in 2015 found that interior noise levels in EVs are up to 6dB(A) quiet than a conventional car (petrol or diesel). A driver survey by the same group found that 70 per cent or motorists believed a quieter cabin would reduce stress on their commute, while 74 per cent of drivers over 30 desired more “quiet time” in their busy lives.