A new study claims that electric vehicles are less stressful to drive than diesel cars and could have significant mental health benefits.
After monitoring the mental activity of taxi drivers at the wheel of a diesel model and then an electric car, the measurements suggested that the quieter driving environment of the latter had a more positive effect on the well-being of the cabby.
However, the study contradicts various motorist polls that have claimed that stress is one of the main reasons why the uptake of electric cars has been slow in the UK.
Range anxiety – caused by the limited distances electric cars can travel on a single charge – is still one of the major concerns for potential buyers, other research has highlighted.
Zero emissions, zero stress: New research conducted by the London Electric Vehicle Company and University of York claims it is less stressful to drive an electric car than a petrol or diesel
Readings from measurements taken using an electroencephalogram – also referred to as a ‘brain cap’ – fitted to the driver’s head found that cabbies were more focussed when driving an electric taxi then they were in a diesel one.
Higher levels of ‘beta brain wave activity’ were recorded by drivers in the electric vehicle, which indicates higher levels of active concentration.
Drivers were also found to be significantly calmer when at the controls of the electric car.
Further measurements also found that heart rates were consistently less variable than when driving a diesel vehicle, indicating greater mental calmness.
And additional driver survey data showed that the largest improved state felt by the drivers was increased happiness in the quieter, zero-emissions taxi.
The new study was conducted by the London EV Company (LEVC), which produces the latest plug-in TX electric taxi that will replace older diesel models over the coming years. It therefore has an interest in promoting the benefits of electric cars.
Drivers were found to be significantly calmer when at the controls of the electric car
The new electric TX taxi built by LEVC is replacing the old – and heavily polluting – diesel models that dominate the capital’s red routes
With the help of academics from the University of York, drivers were hooked up to monitoring systems to measure any changes in stress when driving a diesel and electric vehicle.
The experiment monitored mental activity – among a host of other physical factors – of four professional cabbies taking to the wheel of both vehicles and undertaking a series of trial drives in the capital.
Electrodes within the cap monitored brain activity over a set route through the capital, giving previously unseen insight into the differing mental states between drivers of electric and diesel vehicles.
Taxi drivers were fitted with these electroencephalograms – also referred to as ‘brain caps’ – that measured their different responses when driving a diesel and electric vehicle
Bosses at the Londen Electric Vehicle Company said they owe taxi driver a duty of care to provide the best working standards possible
Chris Gubbey, CEO of LEVC said: ‘Given that cabbies spend up to 12 hours a day driving, the vehicle is their office.
‘We owe them a duty of care to provide the best working environment – and this study shows that driving our electric cab has a clear benefit for mental well-being.’
Dr Duncan Williams for the University of York added: ‘The study suggests that the quieter driving environment allowed cabbies to be in a more concentrated state of mind. In other words, by removing the noisy diesel engine rumble, they are perhaps freed up to get on with driving in a more focused, but calm way.
‘It’s a fascinating result and, given the movement towards electric commercial vehicles, shows there are even more benefits of going electric than we might have previously thought.’
However, the results conflicted the findings of other research that identified stress as one of the biggest contributors for why motorists haven’t yet bought into electric cars.
Dr Duncan Williams from the University of York said the new study showed electric cars have more benefits than simply being better for the environment and our general health
The results found that the cabbies were generally less stressed, more concentrated and happier when driving the electric taxi
The Department for Transport’s 2015 ‘Uptake of Ultra Low Emission Vehicles in the UK – A Rapid Evidence Assessment’ found repeated literature highlighting the issues of limited range and range anxiety as key barriers to EV adoption.
In one UK survey, over 70 per cent of respondents stated that they would worry about not being able to travel as far as they needed, while a DfT survey of 2014 placed range anxiety at the top of the list of barriers.
However, some studies have quashed the suggestion that drivers are concerned about range anxiety.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) claimed that, in most cases, it’s an overstated phenomenon.
The American study analysed the driving habits of drivers on a second-by-second basis and concluded that 87 per cent of vehicles on roads at the time could be replaced by a low-cost electric car, even if there was no possibility of recharging it during the day due to the shortness of journeys.
Colliers says the government needs to consider an electric-car charging strategy for residents who live in flats and have no off-street parking
But more still needs to be done in the UK to make charging more accessible for owners, claims real estate experts Colliers International.
John Roberts, head of automotive and roadside for the firm, said the UK has a ‘long way to go’ to diffuse range anxiety – and the Government needs to help the property sector make it easier for motorists to charge vehicles at home and at work.
He said: ‘Currently, there are over 5,000 locations in the UK that have a public charging point installed and there are over 9,000 devices at these locations, which provide 15,000 connectors.
‘Although these statistics are impressive, the number of connectors and devices will need to at least quadruple in the short term to meet the demand from the increasing sales of EVs.
‘Charging at home is fine if you have off-street parking. Of course, many of us don’t.
‘Some local authorities and London Boroughs are selectively placing charging points in lamp posts. This is a great initiative, but what happens when every vehicle is electric?
‘We already see cables stretched for 20 metres along the pavement which is both a safety risk and, quite frankly, open to wanton vandalism.
‘For residential developers of apartments, should there be a requirement that charging points are fitted, or can be readily retro-fitted, to every parking space?
‘This is something else which will need to be taken into consideration.’
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