Kia Says Your Music Choice Impacts Your EV Range

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Photo: Kia UK

As electric vehicles grow in popularity, we’ve started to learn that everything from the weather to the kind of terrain on which you’re driving can impact that vehicle’s real-world range. Now, Kia has another addition to make to that list: Your music taste.

Kia UK recruited Dr. Duncan Williams, a lecturer at the University of Salford’s School of Science, Engineering and Environment, and co-founded WaveTrace, a psychoacoustic consultancy that observes how humans react to auditory stimuli, to help conduct their experiment. The company wanted to see how music choice would impact the real-world range of the Kia EV6, which can get an estimated 328 miles to a charge on the WLTP combined cycle.

It’s worth noting here that the WLTP cycle isn’t the most accurate reflection of real-world range in the first place, since it doesn’t test EVs in variable weather conditions; final range estimates tend to be more generous via the WLTP than via the EPA. However, because this study compares the differences between music choices, the overall WTLP range figure is less important than the real-world ranges that were discovered during testing. It’s just a nice starting figure to work from.

To conduct this test, participants who had never before driven an EV got behind the wheel of the EV6 in the GT-Line S trim, since that has the most powerful speaker system of all the trims. Those drivers were provided with a fixed playlist and outfitted with a device that recorded their biometric measurements, including skin temperature, sweat, pulse, and heart rate variability. Then, they were sent off on an 18-mile road.

The test only took place over two days, but Dr. Williams immediately noted the obvious: That different kinds of music had drastically different impacts on range. Classical music encouraged EV drivers to drive with a cool head and a light right foot, where up-tempo pop music resulted in more “spirited” driving styles that drained range.

From the study:

On average, drivers lost 25 per cent in range expenditure versus real-world miles
Total test road 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

If you’ve ever listened to music before, these results probably aren’t surprising. After all, you’re not going to throw on Beethoven when you’re trying to run your fastest mile, and you’re not going to listen to The Weeknd as a light background tune when you need to calm down.

It is interesting, though, to have actual numbers to back up our natural understanding of tempo. And it’s a good reminder that if you’re trying to eke out those last few miles from your electric car, you’ll probably want to avoid anything too uplifting.

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