With E-mobility coming to our doorstep, electrosmog in electric cars has become a frequently discussed topic. Almost 10% of the cars registered in 2020 in Germany were solely powered by electricity, jumping up from less than 2% in 2019. The number of hybrid vehicles even doubled to 18% in 2020.
Since the first bans on driving diesel vehicles in German city centers, alternative solutions were to be introduced. The automotive industry invested in the development of electric cars ready for mass production. They are considered a greener alternative due to their zero CO2 emissions. But what about the passengers’ exposure to EMFs when inside of these vehicles? And how can you protect yourself from EMFs in your electric car?
What is an electric car?
The term electric car refers to purely battery-powered and hybrid vehicles. The key difference between an electric car and a plug-in hybrid is the drive. When it comes to an electric car, it is purely electric. A plug-in hybrid, on the other hand, has an internal combustion engine, in addition to the electric engine, making them a two drive system.
Package of measures to promote electromobility
The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy sees electromobility as the “key to climate-friendly mobility” worldwide. In 2016, this led them to introduce funding opportunities that are constantly being expanded and adapted. They includes:
- A purchase premium for electric cars (environmental bonus including the innovation premium, which is limited until the end of 2021)
- Expansion of the charging infrastructure
- Procurement program for the public sector
- Temporary purchase incentives (until the end of 2025)
- Tax incentives
Radiation protection limit values for electrosmog in electric cars
What radiation sources can be found in an electric car?
Numerous different electrical components such as chips, control units or cellular modules produce different frequencies. According to the Federal Office for Radiation Protection, the fields generated by electromobility are at frequencies between zero Hertz (static fields) and several tens or hundreds of kilohertz (low-frequency and intermediate-frequency fields).
Electromagnetic environmental compatibility (EMUV) and limit values in cars
When it comes to radiation protection, magnetic fields are particularly relevant. A systematic review by the Federal Office for Radiation Protection in 2018 showed that the health risks of interfrequent fields are less studied than the effects of low-frequency or high-frequency ones. Dr. Sarah Drießen, from the Research Center for Electro-Magnetic Environmental Compatibility at the RWTH Aachen University Hospital, says: “Very little is known about the strength of the electric and magnetic fields of electric vehicles.” This means that studies have to be carried out in order to be able to clearly determine the risk. The electromagnetic environmental compatibility (EMVU) considers the biological and health effects of technical devices.
Due to the lack of evidence, the German Federal Office for Radiation Protection announced a research project in October 2020 to investigate the strength of the magnetic fields created by electric vehicles. “This data can be used to evaluate whether the limit values are being adhered to,” says Drießen. There are no separate statutory limit values for motor vehicles in Germany. Therefore, the guidelines of the International Commission for Protection against Non-Ionizing Radiation (ICNIRP) have also applied in this area.
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How high is the electrosmog load inside of an electric car?
The car as a Faraday cage
The body of a car forms a so-called Faraday cage. This is a mostly closed, electrically conductive body with a cavity inside. The Faraday cage has the property of holding back electrical and magnetic fields, as well as voltage. This construction, where no voltage penetrates from the outside in, prevents the passengers from being hurt in the event of a lightning strike. But fields generated inside can’t get out either.
Studies warn of high levels of electrosmog in electric cars
From a political point of view, hybrids and electric cars are not considered a health threat. Many studies, on the other hand, warn against strong exposure to electromagnetic radiation. That is why the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) carried out field measurements in various electric cars in a study back in 2009. The aim of the research was to determine the exposure to magnetic fields of alternative drive systems that originate from the drivetrains in electric and hybrid vehicles.
Measurements were done:
- in vehicles on roller dynamometers;
- in road traffic under real traffic conditions.
The following was considered:
- different constant driving speeds;
- effects of acceleration and braking maneuvers.
The results differed depending on how the car drove and, above all, where cables and batteries were positioned. Low values were measured at head height, but values were significantly higher close to the body. The highest values often occurred in the footwell in front of the front seats. In some cases, the highest values were measured in the rear, i.e. in the area behind the front seats, where children, who have been shown to be particularly sensitive to electromagnetic radiation, are seated. This was particularly the case when the battery or the wiring was positioned directly under or behind the rear seat bench. Further measurement results can be found in the EMF portal.
This is how electric car manufacturers are reducing electrosmog pollution
Thomas Krauss, Head of Hardware Quality Assurance at Porsche: “We have around 100 electrical and electronic components in our cars, which we distribute, shield or filter in the vehicles so that we are below the limit values.” Each component has to have as low radiation levels as possible. Prototypes are used to measure whether all radiation limits are observed and whether electrical devices do not interfere with each other. On top of this, the Federal Motor Transport Authority checks compliance with EU legal requirements.
Electrosmog caused by charging electric cars is particularly worth considering
The Federal Office for Radiation Protection expressly points out that high electromagnetic fields especially increase when charging the batteries of electric cars. The energy storage devices are usually charged via cables and wherever electrical current flows, a magnetic field builds up around the conductor.
In the future, however, charging will not only be via cables, but also contactless. Vehicles equipped for this purpose are parked for charging over a coil located on or in the floor. With this so-called inductive charging (wireless charging), the current flows from the transmitter coil into the battery via an electromagnetic field. The resulting magnetic field creates a current flow in the vehicle coil that charges the battery. Several kilowatts are transmitted in a short time, with very high field strengths. These are well above the limit values recommended by the EU. If people stand or sit directly next to the vehicle during inductive charging, they are exposed to the same field strengths. Protective measures are urgently needed in this respect.
And how high is the electrosmog in petrol and diesel cars?
Regardless of the drive system, modern vehicles have a large number of electromagnetic sources: air conditioning, fans, seat heating, assistance, comfort and entertainment systems. These use high-frequency electromagnetic fields for wireless information transmission. Electric radiation is not the only type of radiation on the rise.
The resulting magnetic fields are particularly problematic here. To produce the ignition coil and the alternator of the internal combustion engine, for instance, have a lot of magnetic fields, sometimes at high frequency. This is why both petrol and diesel cars also contribute to high levels of electrosmog, which should not be ignored. Comparative measurements by the Federal Office for Radiation Protection in two motor vehicles with internal combustion engines showed similarly high field strengths in the footwell of the front seats as in electric cars, due to the motor of a ventilation fan and its wiring. At the highest power level, one case showed the measured values above the recommended limits.
Recommendations for protection against electrosmog in the car
- When developing new vehicle models, care should be taken from the outset, so that passengers are exposed to the lowest possible field strengths.
- With contactless charging, precautions must be taken to ensure that the area between the coils remains free and that only low field strengths occur where people are present.
- People with active body aids (pacemakers, neurostimulators, etc.) should ask their doctor whether the function of the medical device used can be influenced by magnetic fields.
In addition, regardless of which drive system you use, you should ensure that:
- Functions such as radio, Wifi, Bluetooth and tracking devices are only on when you need to use them.
- You don’t use your mobile phone in the car. If this is necessary, it is advisable to use a hands-free system or, at best, an external antenna. The external antenna also improves reception and thus reduces EMF pollution in the car.
Waveguard – certified EMF protection products
Take charge of your EMF protection. At Waveguard, we develop the exclusive certified products that allow you to create a radiation-reduced environment, enabling you to still enjoy the perks of modern technology. Our technology has been certified by various scientific studies, such as the Bion and Dartsch Institute. Do you have any questions about your personal EMF protection? We can help.
Did you like this article? You can read about the latest news on the subject of electromagnetic radiation in our Waveguard blog.
- Federal Office for Radiation Protection: Radiation protection in electromobility. Salzgitter 2020. https://www.bfs.de/DE/themen/emf/kompetenzzentrum/e-mobilitaet/e-mobilitaet.html
- Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy: Electromobility in Germany. Berlin 2020. https://www.bmwi.de/Redaktion/DE/Dossier/elektromobilitaet.html
- DER SPIEGEL (online): And it made a boom. Electric car breakthrough. Hamburg 2020. https://www.spiegel.de/auto/fahrkultur/elektroautos-neuheiten-von-tesla-audi-bmw-vw-und-co-fuer-2021-a-36f56d16-e615-4543-96e3-208ee1372237?utm_source=pocket-newtab-global-de-DE
- Diagnose-Funk – environmental and consumer organization for protection against electromagnetic radiation e. V .: Train / car with combustion engine / electric car.Stuttgart 2020. https://www.diagnose-funk.org/ratgeber/elektrosmog-im-alltag/magnetische-wechselfelder/bahn-pkw-mit-verbrennungsmotor-elektroauto
- Fluter – magazine of the Federal Agency for Civic Education: The full droning.Bonn 2019. https://www.fluter.de/strahlenbelastung-im-elektroauto
- GEOVITAL, Academy for Radiation Protection: Electrosmog in electric cars. Sulzberg 2020. https://geovital.com/elektrosmog-in-elektroautos/
- de GmbH: The unusually long history of electric cars. Europarc Dreilinden 2020. https://www.mobile.de/magazin/artikel/die-ungewoehnlich-lange-geschichte-der-elektroautos-6452
- Neue Zürcher Zeitung: Electrosmog in electric cars? Zürich 2020. https://www.nzz.ch/mobilitaet/elektrosmog-im-elektroauto-ld.1592576
- n-tv Nachrichtenfernsehen GmbH: Is there electrosmog in the vehicle? Köln 2020. https://www.n-tv.de/auto/Gibt-es-Elektrosmog-im-Fahrzeug-article22105449.ht
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