A new study carried out by the makers of the electric Black Cab – LEVC – have found that drivers of electric vehicles are calmer, happier, and more focused behind the wheel.

On top of the reduced fuel costs and improved air quality issues compared to a diesel vehicle, LEVC TX-driving cabbies experienced less stress when driving too. Although the study was conducted on taxi drivers in black cabs, the results are likely to mirror drivers of normal EVs too.

Carried out with the University of York, the research used an electroencephalogram – a ‘brain cap’ – placed on the head of four participating drivers. Electrodes within the cap monitored brain activity over a set route through the capital, providing an insight as to the differing mental states of drivers of electric and diesel taxis. Heart rate and audio readings were also taken too.

Driving the electric taxi, cabbies were found to be:

• More focussed than when driving the diesel vehicle – higher levels of beta brain wave activity were recorded by drivers in the electric vehicle, which indicates higher levels of active concentration. In short, while driving the electric taxi, drivers were freed up get on with driving. This was particularly noticeable when vehicles are waiting at traffic lights – a common situation for the London cabbie

• Calmer than when driving the diesel vehicle – heart rate was consistently less variable in the electric taxi than the diesel taxi, indicating greater mental calmness. The electric taxi was a less noisy working environment for the drivers with around 5dB less overall amplitude, and an increased dynamic range in comparison to recordings from the diesel taxi.

• Happier than when driving the diesel vehicle – additional driver survey data showed that the largest improvement over the diesel taxi reported by the drivers was increased happiness. This was followed by reduced stress and less distraction in the electric taxi.

All the drivers who took part in the study had already clocked up many miles in the electric TX taxi and were familiar with its controls and driving behaviour.

Chris Gubbey, CEO of LEVC said: “Our aim with the TX was to make the world’s most advanced taxi, a vehicle that would not only help reduce urban air pollution but improve comfort and convenience for passengers and drivers across the globe. We are delighted to find we have made a vehicle that is now proven to also make cabbies’ working lives better.

“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 wellbeing. Next year we will be introducing a new electric light commercial vehicle, which means that the positive health implications of going electric will be extended to professional van drivers too.”

Dr Duncan Williams said: “This study proved hugely interesting. The drivers all reported being calmer, less stressed and happier in the electric taxi than in the old diesel model. Traditionally those feelings would correlate with more Alpha brain waves, which are a good indicator of relaxation. But when we looked at the data, the drivers’ showed more Beta brain waves, an indicator of mental activity and attention.

“What does this mean? Well, 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.”

Chris Lilly (Zap-Map)