Killing the roar: electric vehicles can calm us down

Dr Duncan Williams explains how electric cars’ quieter engines can help to reduce the stress of modern life – but only if we want them to

If you ask people which sense they wouldn’t mind losing, most would be prepared to sacrifice hearing. But hearing is vital for survival – the brain is always listening, dealing with sound processing long before vision. Because we don’t have ‘earlids’, we are at the mercy of our responses to sound, which is why unwanted noise is very distressing.

As a psychoacoustician, I deal with the psychology of sound and car manufacturers often seek me out for help with engine noise. When something is repeatedly exploding two to three metres in front of you, it’s usually too loud and annoying unless you’re protected in some way.

EVs offer the chance to solve that in a neat way: by reducing the noise. In general terms, modern life is noisy – with mobile devices, people playing music, shouting. Driving an EV is quiet, and we have found that it can make you less stressed than driving a car with a petrol engine.


In 2018, I placed an electroencephalogram [EEG, used for measuring brain waves] on the heads of four professional cabbies in central London and monitored their brain activity as they drove both electric and diesel black cabs.

Read more: EveningStandard

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