HAMBURG: New research has found that electrically driven vans do not just cut fuel costs and help improve air quality – they can also reduce stress behind the wheel.
Van drivers also feel calmer and more focussed when driving an electric vehicle, thanks to a quieter cabin compared to a traditional combustion-engined van, according to a study by Fiat Professional.
Fiat carried out the trial with the help of psychoacoustician Duncan Williams, formerly of Oxford University, to mark the recent arrival of its first fully electric van, the E-Ducato.
The findings come several years after Williams and the London EV Company found out that drivers of quieter pure electric taxis in the British capital also felt better than those piloting noisy diesels.
The expert recorded lower heart rates and enhanced concentration, especially in stress situations such as waiting at traffic lights.
The Fiat study focused too on the noisiness of the cabin and its link to stress. Drivers' biometric responses reported the E-Ducato as being less stressful than its ICE counterpart.
Measurements were taken during each trial using an Empatica E4, a medical grade wearable device similar to a high-end Fitbit.
Overall, it found drivers produced significantly lower levels of sweat, had a lower heart rate and lower body temperature when compared to the ICE van.
Drivers also reported marginally lower levels of stress when answering the Perceived Stress Questionnaire for the electric E-Ducato.
Acoustically, the diesel engine was 10 decibels louder than the E-Ducato – nearly four-times the volume of the electric van. This is roughly the difference between someone talking from 1 metre away versus shouting from the same distance.
"We already know that noise on the roads is a real problem for people who aren't part of the traffic, but finding out how drivers respond behind the wheel is still very new territory," said Williams.
"It's a fascinating result and, given the movement towards electric commercial vehicles, shows there are potentially more benefits to van drivers going electric beyond things like cost saving on fuel."