Music you listen to can increase electric vehicle (EV) range

A research study carried out by Kia UK and a leading authority in acoustics, noise, psychoacoustics and sounds science have found that the type of music playing in an electric vehicle (EV) can impact real-world driving range.

The study indicates that playlists featuring ambient classical pieces and famous symphonic-form compositions from the likes of Beethoven can help drivers sustain battery power far better over other types of music genres and artists, including The Weeknd, Kanye West and Adele.

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Up-tempo pop, hip-hop, and even soul ballad pop were found to impact electric car range due to the effect these genres have in influencing driver behaviour and driving style.

The research was carried out using Kia’s top-specification EV6 GT-Line S electric crossover, which features a powerful 14-speaker premium sound system from Meridian Audio.

The all-wheel-drive EV6 ‘GT-Line S’ with dual motors used in the trials has 321bhp and 605Nm of torque, allowing it to rapidly accelerate to 0-62mph (0-100kph) in just 5.2 seconds.

The study was overseen by Dr Duncan Williams, a lecturer at the University of Salford’s School of Science, Engineering and Environment. He also co-founded WaveTrace, a psychoacoustic consultancy specialising in biometric tracking of human responses to sound and music stimuli.

The trial saw participants – all of whom had never driven an all-electric vehicle before the study – get behind the wheel of an EV6 to complete a predefined test route. Over the 18-mile (19km) route, a fixed playlist was played through the car’s Meridian Audio sound system, featuring different music genres and songs.

Before taking the EV6 on the test run, each participant was fitted with an Empatica E4, a medical-grade wearable device that records biometric measurements. Dr Williams oversaw the analysis and data measurements focusing on infrared thermopile (shifts in skin temperature), electrodermal activity (fluctuating resistance of the skin that is altered by sweat) and blood volume pulse using a PPG optical sensor. Heartbeat and heat rate variability were also calculated.

Dr Williams, lecturer at the University of Salford, said: “What we found from only two days of testing was that music really can have a dramatic influence on the real-world driving range of an electric vehicle.

“Different songs resulted in varying electrodermal activity and blood volume increase for each of the participants. This had a knock-on effect on driving style, and ultimately influenced the real-world driving range of the EV6.

“In short; if you want to go further, listen to the likes of Beethoven and other relaxing classical music; if you’re not worried about range dropping a little more quickly, by all means put on some more high tempo tracks.”

Other more widely known factors can alter the real-world driving range of an electric vehicle, including weather and temperature fluctuations, speed of travel, vehicle payload and use of in-cabin tech.

Now music choice can be added to this list because drivers are influenced by the tempo, beat and dynamics of different songs that ultimately shape driving style and behaviour behind the wheel.

Classical music, such as Beethoven’s ‘Symphony No. 9’, creates a calm, focused and balanced environment for the driver, resulting in a driving style that is composed and level-headed.

This genre of music preserved battery power and the real-world driving range of the EV6 the best. Test participants drove up to four times more efficiently while listening to Beethoven than certain other tracks on the test playlist.

At the other end of the spectrum, up-tempo pop songs, such as The Weeknd’s ‘Blinding Lights’, were found to provoke intense emotion in the test drivers. This resulted in a more spirited and energetic driving styles that made them twice as inefficient as they tapped into more of the car’s performance.

Bridging the range gap between Beethoven and The Weeknd is Adele. The British singer songwriter’s 2015 global smash hit ‘Hello’ was found to create an arresting backdrop for some test drivers.

The song’s slower pace is offset by building crescendos, encouraging a more emotive driving style that also had the potential to reduce the EV6’s driving range during the test, though not as much as faster-paced tracks

Data from the two-day test study assessing the impact of different music genres on EV6 drivers following a pre-set 18-mile (29km) driving route and how those factors influence real-world range, concluded several things:

  1. On average, drivers lost 25 percent in range expenditure versus real-world miles over the total test route with an average range expenditure of 22.48 miles.
  2. Classical music at 111 beats per minute (BPM), such as Beethoven’s ‘Symphony No. 9’ played for 32.5 percent of playlist, resulted in a range expenditure of just 7.7 percent.
  3. Up-tempo pop at 171 BPM, such as The Weeknd’s ‘Blinding Lights’ played for  10.4 percent of the playlist, resulted in an increased range expenditure of 23.6 percent.
  4. Soul ballad music at 79 BPM, such as Adele’s ‘Hello’ played for 15.3 percent of playlist, saw a range expenditure of 13.3 percent.

A diverse set of participants were chosen for the study. The group had no prior knowledge of the carefully selected test route nor the pre-set tracklist. Testing took place across two days, with a start point at Meridian Audio’s Huntingdon headquarters in Cambridgeshire, UK.

The carefully chosen 18-mile (29km) loop covered typical everyday EV6 usage including commuter travel, school run routes and shopping errand scenarios.

As a result, the test route combined stop/start in-town traffic, busy roundabouts, and tight residential roads with free-flowing dual carriageways, fast inland open stretches, and dynamic and twisty country roads.

The carefully curated tracklist was added to the EV6’s infotainment system and tailored to take the test drivers on a contrasting sonic journey. The tracks were played in the same order (see below) for each test, with aspects such as volume, bass and treble all set to the same level for each drive.

  • Tycho – ‘Awake’
  • Adele – ‘Hello’
  • The Weeknd – ‘Blinding Lights’
  • Anna Meredith – ‘Nautilus’
  • Kanye West – ‘Fade’
  • Beethoven – ‘Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op.125 “Choral”:2 (Molto vivace)’

The EV6’s audio settings were checked before the start of each test to ensure all levels and elements remained the same. A ‘control’ run was also carried out with no music.

Drivers weren’t fully briefed on what the research was exploring and tracks on the playlist didn’t necessarily correlate with the same sections of road from one driver to the next, due to changing road conditions and driver behaviour. The results, therefore, suggest a correlation between certain types of music and greater or reduced energy use.

This difference in range expenditure was shocking for us at here ElectricDrives because we often drive with more upbeat music. We now know that in future to increase range, especially on longer journeys, we will listen to something more sedate.

Ian Osborne
Ian Osborne
Editor-in-Chief at ElectricDrives

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