Clean Transport

Published on November 2nd, 2015 | by Kyle Field


The Hidden Benefits of EVs — Silence

November 2nd, 2015 by  

Since buying our first EV a year ago, my wife and I have enjoyed the learning process of getting to know our EVs – how they work, what they’re good at, and what we appreciate about them. Several unexpected things about EVs surprised me early on, but the one thing that I really wasn’t expecting was the quiet of the cabin… the silence of the drive and how much peace it brings me.


Those of us who have driven EVs know that they are quieter than gasmobiles. EVs don’t have engines and the motors they use instead don’t make more than a light whine that, to me, makes me feel like I’m driving around in a car from the future. Taking the engine noise out of the equation doesn’t just make it quiet in the cabin, but I’ve realized that it also removes a subconscious stress builder. There’s no more constant revving of the engine or trying to predict when the car will start accelerating… it just goes when I press the pedal (not a second or two later like many gasmobiles).

EVs have made the ride home from work into a place where I can decompress and let the stress of a long workday slip away. I find I’m driving slower and more relaxed, and that it’s now a very calming experience. I was never a stressful driver or prone to road rage, so I’m not saying that EVs are a magic pill, turning the Hulk back into Bruce Banner, but it helps – and I’ll take it.


What’s tough about this is that it’s hard to quantify the mental benefits of this. How do you put a dollar figure on stress relief? Can peace and quiet be a selling point of a car? I believe that it should be, but given my experience in brick and mortar dealerships talking to “traditional” salesmen about EVs, they hardly know anything about EVs, let alone some of the niche benefits that might actually be the ones you enjoy most. But hey, don’t take my word for it, reach out to someone you know with an EV or stop by a local dealership to try one out and see if a little bit more peace and quiet is something you could use more of in your life.

Check out our new 93-page EV report, based on over 2,000 surveys collected from EV drivers in 49 of 50 US states, 26 European countries, and 9 Canadian provinces.

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About the Author

I'm a tech geek passionately in search of actionable ways to reduce the negative impact my life has on the planet, save money and reduce stress. Live intentionally, make conscious decisions, love more, act responsibly, play. The more you know, the less you need. TSLA investor. Tesla referral link:

  • Bob_Wallace

    An update. By 2022 all cars sold in the US will be required to have automatic braking. That means that they should have sensor systems capable of detecting humans/animals approaching on a collision course.

    If warm meat is detected then auto-beep at it, alert the driver, and prepare to avoid colliding. This should be built into EVs and other vehicles.

  • TedKidd

    Nice job Kyle!

    Also, no more “Oh crap, gotta stop at the gas station! That’s gonna make me late!!!”

    I’m with Steve on “thrashing”, I like driving my Smart like I stole it. I feel the same when I drive the BMW or VW. The Mercedes is a whole different experience of comfort and elegance.

    The Leaf… I hope the 200 mile one has some personality built into it….

  • Simple Indian

    one word AGREE.

  • omar

    I see you didn’t put it in your previous review to talk about it alone to show its higher benefit. thanks

  • Steve Grinwis

    I think I would actually generally agree. I do enjoy thrashing my little EV, but, at the same time, I absolutely prize the drive home from games night.

    You see, every few months, my nerdy work friends and I throw a LAN party. We stay up past midnight eating pizza, drinking pop (or soda for my American friends) and playing video games.

    And when I drive home, at 1:00 in the morning, through the quiet street, I absolutely adore my little EV. I turn the radio off, even the fan off, if I can, and just cruise along in my own little bubble of quiet contemplation. That perfect stillness, that confident silence, it’s damned near addictive. Perhaps if I did it more often it would lose it’s luster, but, it’s a time that I absolutely prize.

  • Sonofswift

    Maybe they should play Greensleeves.

  • I’ve had quite a few near misses with pedestrians and birds. Less as I have learned when to use the Volt’s active pedestrian warning for best effect. Driving through a parking lot is more stressful in the Volt as pedestrians are definitely less aware of it than any past vehicles. One of the drivers that borrowed my Volt actually nudged a pedestrian with the front bumper as he jumped out between parked cars unaware the Volt was approaching. Luckily the guest driver was able to stop in time and no one and nothing was hurt. Another guest driver hit a bird almost immediately after taking off as birds take a bit longer to decide to fly up and away from the roadway. Other than these low speed situations, it is definitely more serene to drive an EV.

    • neroden

      I’ve honked at birds to get them to move. Pedestrians respond faster than birds, but they both respond.

  • Harold Thiers

    I like the silence but I prefer by far the smoothness of 1 gear. switching to my Passat DSG and you rock back and forth and not smooth at all. press and go and go and go and go.
    Smoothness trumps silence. Smoothness is accentuated by silence.

    • TedKidd

      +1. I had a TDI Sportwagen. Hated that transmission.

  • JamesWimberley

    Now this is a useful point. The difference must be even greater for buses, with vibration as well as noise from diesel engines. City dwellers get used to a high level of background noise, but it has IIRC measurable health effects as well as unquantifiable ones in loss of peace. Dig more into this please.

    • Omega Centauri

      I have the impression the average American thinks the noise of an ICE engine is music. It means power, and that makes them happy happy happy. Of course the health effects are real, but the love of load fast things seems to be real too.

      • I’m finally getting 94 Dollars an hr,….It’s time to take some action and you can join it too.It is easy way to get rich.Three weeks from now you will wish you have started today….+++++++++++++>>> Vis!t my prof1le


  • Fun to experience when test driving. Curious what it’ll be like when experiencing it regularly and then driving a gasoline rental car or riding in someone else’s car or such.

    • BigWu

      I drive a Tesla S at home and (insert random gasmobile here) during the workweek (i travel most weeks).

      Regarding the silence ov EVs: the pedestrians who are hearing impared, elderly, folks on their mobiles, those listening to music/podcasts, and those who believe themselves to be “on the planet Ogo, part of an intellectual elite, preparing to subjugate the barbarian hordes on Pluto” can’t hear gasmobiles either. The difference is that when you drive an EV or hybrid you KNOW the peds can’t hear you rather than assuming (dangerously!) that they can.

      Going back and forth between an EV and gasmobiles on a weekly basis, driving everything from clown cars to Caymans, is a constant reminder of how certain the EV future is. It’s like jumping back and forth between the 19th and 22nd centuries.

      • Ha, yes, as someone who has to rent gasmobiles but test drives a lot of EVs, it seems clear as day electrics are the future. Just have to get more people to experience the benefits.

      • neroden

        We have a way of alerting the oblivious. It’s called the horn. I use it. A lot.

  • Marion Meads

    The irony is that blind and hearing impaired people complain about its silence… So you’ll have to install pedestrian warning system… and there goes away your silent benefits.

    • Kyle Field

      The Leaf has a backup noise. It’s very subtle but pulses lightly to let people know it’s coming. They call it the VSP – Vehicle Sound for Pedestrians.

      • Kraylin

        While I understand the perceived need for electric vehicles to make noise for pedestrian safety I believe it is being overhyped. After all, unless some sort of sports car or exhaust malfunction, typical cars these days while cruising or moving slowly are very quiet. Most pedestrian accidents are caused by inattentive people not a quiet/noisy car issue. I was never taught to listen for a car, I simply “look both ways”…

        In the end I hope electric vehicles or any other vehicles don’t start beeping and blinking and honking just because a pedestrian is nearby…

        • Kyle Field

          I agree for the most part. On top of this, there’s also road noise just from the tires, wind, etc that’s audible though likely not as much at low speeds.

          Your last comment reminds me of that dominos pizza delivery scooter that made crazy noises:

          • Brent Jatko

            That video makes me laugh! “Dominos, Dominos, Dominos…..PIZZA! (revving noises) Meka-Meka!”

      • The irony of it is that people universally ignore the VSP.

        I had another reminder of that fact last week. I had just finished quick charging, got into my car and noticed that a landscape guy was cleaning up next to my car. He was close so I put the car in reverse and waited for him to step to one side. He didn’t even flinch and continued to struggle to do the landscaping with my car in the way. If he simply stepped to one side, I’d be gone and he’d have plenty of room to perform his task. I could clearly hear the VSP from inside the car, it’s much louder outside the car. I turned the VSP on and off by repeatedly putting the car in neutral and in reverse again. Nothing. It took 3 looooooong minutes before he was done struggling with his task before it was safe for me to move. He almost jumped out of his skin when the car moved.

        People at Sam’s club will walk behind my car on their way to their vehicle as my car is making its backup noise. They jump when I do eventually move when its safe. Everyone is startled by the cars movement, no one takes any notice of the VSP indicating movement is imminent.

        Mandated car noises make everyone ‘feel good’ that we are saving children or the blind from certain death, while the actual ‘benefits’ are never realized. Because there never was a problem in the first place.

        • mike_dyke

          Have you tried using the car’s horn as a backup to the VSP? That should be much louder.

          • sjc_1

            Instead of noise, how about backup light flashing.

        • darth

          I have had very similar experiences. No one seems to react to the VSP sound.

        • neroden

          Mandated car noises are completely stupid.
          I have a horn. I use it.

    • JamesWimberley

      There must be a technical fix for partially deaf pedestrians.You could require transmission of an inaudible signal that could be picked up by a vibrating alarm. The kit should only cost a few dollars either side.

    • Steve Grinwis

      I like the Canadian approach. The car makes a slight hum when moving, that shuts off at around 60 kph. It’s not really noticeable inside the cabin, and it’s designed to rise in pitch with the whine of the differential gears, so it’s complementary rather than intrusive.

      It’s still as close to silent as makes no difference, but it is audible. It’s something a blind person can pick up right away, if they know what to listen for.

      And if you have sight, but not hearing, you should surely be able to pick up the bright LEDs that surround the car, and the fact that they’ve started moving.

      And if you are blind *and* deaf, you have my sympathies, but perhaps it’s not safe for you to be out without a guide dog, or equivalent? Not sure there, to be honest, but nothing a normal car does would really help either.

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