The type of music playing through the audio system of an electric vehicle can impact real-world driving range, according to a test study carried out by Kia UK and a leading authority in acoustics, noise, psychoacoustics and sounds science. 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.
Up-tempo pop, hip-hop, and even soul ballad pop were found to impact EV range due to the effect these genres have in influencing driver behaviour and driving style.
At the centre of the research study was the award-winning Kia EV6. The all-electric crossover offers a real-world battery range of up to 328 miles and is one of the few EVs currently on the market that features ultra-fast charging tech that allows the car to replenish its battery pack from 10 to 80 per cent in just 18 minutes. The test was carried out in the top-specification ‘GT-Line S’ model, which features a powerful 14-speaker premium sound system from Meridian Audio.
The study was overseen by Dr Duncan Williams, a lecturer at the University of Salford’s School of Science, Engineering and Environment. Dr Williams 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 prior to the study – get behind the wheel of an EV6 to complete a predefined test route. Over the 18-mile route, a fixed playlist was played through the car’s Meridian Audio sound system, featuring different music genres and songs.
With Every Heartbeat – measuring physiological activity
Before taking the EV6 on the 18-mile 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 from the Empatica E4, with the device 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.
“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,” said Dr Williams.
“Different songs resulted in varying electrodermal activity and blood volume increase for each of the participants,” added Dr Williams. “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.”
Electric Feel – results from the study
Several factors can alter the real-world driving range of an EV, including weather and temperature fluctuations, speed of travel, vehicle payload, and use of in-cabin tech.
This research shows that music can now be added to that list, as 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 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 EV 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 driving route – and how those factors influence real-world range, concluded:
- On average, drivers lost 25 per cent in range expenditure versus real-world miles
- Total test route distance 18 miles
- Average range expenditure 22.48 miles
- Classical music (111 BPM, Beethoven, ‘Symphony No. 9’) duration: 32.5 per cent of playlist
- Range expenditure of the 22.48 miles attributable to classical music: 7.7 per cent
- Up-tempo pop (171 BPM, The Weeknd, ‘Blinding Lights’) duration: 10.4 per cent of playlist
- Range expenditure of the 22.48 miles attributable to up-temp pop music: 23.6 per cent
- Soul ballad (79 BPM, Adele, ‘Hello’) duration: 15.3 per cent of playlist
- Range expenditure of the 22.48 miles attributable to soul ballad music: 13.3 per cent
Shut Up And Drive – how the test was carried out
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 track list. Testing took place across two days, with a start point at Meridian Audio’s Huntingdon headquarters in Cambridgeshire, UK.
The carefully chosen route – an 18-mile loop – covered typical everyday EV6 usage including commuter travel, school run routes, and shopping errand scenarios. But the test route also included the fact that the EV6 has been created to be much more than just an everyday ‘daily-runner’ EV. With its outstanding range and ultra-fast charging capability, the all-electric crossover represents the new vehicle of choice for families or a group of friends wanting to easily get away for long weekend in the country or a driving adventure holiday to the coast.
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.
A carefully curated track list was added to the EV6’s state-of-the-art infotainment system, with each song being brought to life by the high-tech 14-speaker Meridian system.
The set was tailored to take the EV6 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. In addition, the Meridian system’s Intelli-Q function, which automatically adjusts the EV6 speaker sound based on vehicle speed, was switched off for all five tests. The Meridian Active Sound Design setting was set to ‘normal’ for all five tests. 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.
High Voltage – Kia’s fully electric EV6 with Meridian Audio
The EV6 is Kia’s first dedicated EV to be based on the company’s Electric-Global Modular Platform (E-GMP). This high-tech architecture ensures the EV6 eliminates the many compromises faced by EVs that are created on platforms initially designed to accommodate internal combustion engine vehicles. As a result of its E-GMP underpinnings, the EV6 has a class-leading interior space, a highly impressive driving range of up to 328 miles and 800V ultra-fast charging capabilities that enables customers to carry out a 10 to 80 percent charge in just 18 minutes.
The all-wheel drive EV6 ‘GT-Line S’ with dual motor – as used in the trials – has 321bhp on tap, and 605Nm of torque, allowing it to rapidly accelerate to 62mph in just 5.2 seconds.
Representing a first for Kia, the powerful 14-speaker Meridian Audio surround sound system delivers a truly immersive sound experience. The technology has been engineered by the experts at Meridian and features several of the British audio pioneer’s proprietary digital signal processing (DSP) technologies. Meridian’s core sound philosophy has been integrated into the EV6, allowing customers to enjoy natural, lifelike, and authentic audio on the move.
The EV6 is the first of 14 electric vehicles Kia plans to launch globally by 2027. The all-electric crossover will play a key role in the company’s plans to become a leading global sustainable mobility solutions provider.