The drive took place in mid-afternoon and the traffic was, well, the usual tetchy London traffic. I didn’t exactly get the opportunity to use the full range of gears in the regular Kona and the speedometer barely registered anything above 20mph. The accelerometer certainly wasn’t troubled.
The results, both my own individual scores and those for the 30 or so people who took part in then experiment, were interesting.
The drivers were calmer in the EV, but also more efficient and more aware. Confidence was slightly lower overall, although I was more at home since I had previously run a Volkswagen e-Golf for several months, and thus more confident with the controls and how an EV drives.
What is clear from the experiment – albeit a not totally scientific one, with such a relatively small sample size – is that we’re calmer and more efficient behind the wheel of an EV.
So what does this mean for us as a nation of drivers, 10 or 20 years down the line? Are we going to see less road rage? Will the method of driving an EV using just one pedal – the accelerator that, as soon as we lift off, also starts to slow us down as regenerative braking kicks in – mean that we become better at anticipating what other drivers are doing?
I shared the results with AA president Edmund King, who told me: “There is no doubt that driving an EV changes the way we drive. Despite the great performance from most EVs, we tend to drive them more slowly and more carefully.
“Psychologically, we are more at peace in the EV. There is no roar of the engine that excites. We are more aware that pedestrians can’t hear us, so we slow down to ensure nobody steps out.
“Ultimately the brave new world is nearly here, so we must peacefully embrace it and, who knows, it might lead to less road rage.”
Driver training organisations were more cautious, however. Neil Greig, policy and research director for IAM Roadsmart, said: “The fundamental principles of safe driving will not change that much. It’s about training yourself to observe what’s going on, anticipate hazards and deal with those hazards. The hazards will still be the same whether you’re driving an electric vehicle or a conventional vehicle. Most of what we do at the moment will still apply.”
Greig thinks that as we transition into electric cars the small, but important, differences will be enough to make a little retraining useful for most drivers. “I can see people getting into an electric car for the first time, dealing with the interior, dealing with the single pedal, looking at the new readout, will mean they’re going to be distracted by what’s going on inside the car – and that is potentially dangerous. That’s where a bit of training would probably help, before they go out on their own.
“We know we’re going to have to change our training to reflect things like the single-pedal approach. The fact that when you’ve got an electric vehicle, the way you brake and accelerate is different: some of these electric vehicles are incredibly fast and brake incredibly quickly as well, as soon as you lift off the power. It is a slightly different driving technique and we are still formulating our final response to that.”