By on March 1, 2010

Hybrid cars may be green, but are they dangerous? According to Israel’s of Environmental Protection, this may be the case. A research committee funded by the ministry studied radiation from hybrid vehicles over the course of the last nine months, found ‘surplus’ radiation in some models sold in Israel and worldwide, reports Israel’s The Marker.

Not exactly flower power, the radiation in question is cast by the electromagnetic field made by alternating current (AC) flowing from the batteries in the back to the engine up front. The medical implications of this non ionizing radiation, similar to radiation from cellphone antennas, are not yet clear.

The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) recommends a limit of 1,000 mG (milligauss) for a 24 hour exposure period. While other guidelines pose similar limits, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) deemed extended exposure to electromagnetic fields stronger than 2 mG to be a “possible cause” for cancer. Israel’s Ministry of Health recommends a maximum of 4 mG.

The ministry’s foray into this topic is a culmination of a public outcry resulting from publications in the media regarding possible dangers from radiation in hybrid cars. Last year, Israeli automotive website Walla! Cars conducted a series of tests on the previous generation Toyota Prius, Honda Insight and Honda Civic Hybrid, and recorded radiation figures of up to 100 mG during acceleration. Measurements also peaked when the batteries were either full (and in use) or empty (and being charged from the engine), while normal driving at constant speeds yielded 14 to 30 mG on the Prius, depending on the area of the cabin.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection is expected to publish the results of the study this week. The study will group hybrids sold in Israel into three different radiation groups, reports Israel’s Calcalist. It’s expected that the current-gen Prius will be deemed ‘safe’, while the Honda Insight and Civic Hybrid (as well as the prev-gen Prius) will be listed as emitting ‘excessive’ radiation.

If published, the radiation scale will be the first of its kind in the world, even as hybrid cars top the sale charts in Japan. Local Toyota and Honda dealers, of course, are not exactly gleaming with joy, and already hired the services of two lobbying companies to try and call off the publication of the new scale. The two companies, in a surprising display of unison, claim that many electronic devices and gasoline powered cars emit similar and even higher levels of radiation, and deem the study unfair due to the lack of participation of conventional cars.

Recently, the research committee stirred the public conscious as it advised the Israeli Police against adding hybrid cars to its mostly diesel powered fleet, due to medical hazards to officers exposed to radiation for lengthy periods of time.

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24 Comments on “Israel Preps World’s First Hybrid Car Radiation Scale...”

  • avatar

    As Rosanne Rosannadanna used to say, “It just goes to show ya! It’s always somethin’!”

  • avatar

    Another Israeli researcher has the same concerns about cell phones:

    The risks of EM radiation are endlessly debated. Maybe we should discuss the power lines which will be used in charging stations for EVs?

    It’s tough being green.

  • avatar

    “…the radiation in question is cast by the electromagnetic field made by alternating current (AC) flowing from the batteries in the back to the engine up front.”

    Find it hard to believe that the levels of EM radiation in a hybrid can be harmful. Even living next to high tension transmission lines hasn’t been conclusively linked to health problems.

    Anyway, the batteries use DC. Move the DC->AC converter to the front. There won’t be AC current flowing under the seat. DC current does not produce an EM field if I recall correctly.

    • 0 avatar

      Steady-state DC does not produce an EM field, but switching DC does, due to the short rise times of the voltage. This ‘noise’ is a common problem in electronic devices.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes it’s true, motors do give off EM radiation. If you’re afraid of that, then you’ll have to stay away from Priuses, furnaces (blower motor), blenders, hair dryers, fridges (compressor motor), air conditioners, fans … the list goes on and on.

      Here in BC some nut jobs pressured the government into buying their homes because of some new power lines put up on a power company right of way running behind their homes. They’re deathly afraid of power lines umpteen meters in the air, but not the power lines running through the walls of their homes!

      The EM field around a wire doesn’t reach very far.

  • avatar
    Greg Locock

    DC does create an EM field, that’s how DC motors work!

    It just has zero frequency.

  • avatar

    If you talk on your cell phone while driving a hybrid the EMF fields will cancel each other out and you’ll be OK.


    • 0 avatar

      True, but if you’re using a Bluetooth headset, then you’ve just cancelled out the previously cancelled EMF.

      Also, I thought I had seen on an episode of 24 how someone used an electromagentic pulse to cut the power of some city blocks. Can someone figure out a way to turn the Prius into a weapon… Oh wait, the brakes.

  • avatar

    If the EM radiation from a hybrid is a problem, then the EM radiation from electric forklifts is also a problem. They’re pretty common because it’s not practical to use combustion engines indoors.

  • avatar

    Is interesting that cell phones had been around for 20 some yrs now, how many folks we see walking on the street and driving ( it had been rendered illegal in British Columbia recently ) with cell phone kind of glued to the side of their head. If tere is going to be radiation I suppose the number of people with brain tumour would have hit the roof already.
    So far we haven’t got any finger pointing directly at the cell phone culprit yet.
    Whereas Unintended Acceleration had been hitting car far too often already.

    • 0 avatar
      A is A

      “If tere is going to be radiation I suppose the number of people with brain tumour would have hit the roof already”

      It took decades to prove that smoking causes lung cancer, because tobacco needs a lot of time to kill you. But it does.

  • avatar
    Tricky Dicky

    Does anyone find this report sort of suspicious, given that Israel is one of two countries heavily betting on the Project Better Place EV infrastructure. Would anyone be surprised if we soon found out that the Renault/ Nissan vehicles adapted for Better Place will have fabulously low levels of EM radiation compared to nasty, radioactive glowing hybrids?

    As we all know, nothing sells like fear, and a major threat to the Better Place strategy is if hybrid powertrains gain wide acceptance, as this will effectively setback by years (decades?) the scale of adoption needed to make EV infrastructure led projects like Better Place become viable without massive gov’t support.

    This smells funny to me.

    • 0 avatar

      My unscientific guess would be that electric cars would create a substantially higher EMF than hybrids.

    • 0 avatar
      Tal Bronfer

      Exactly. I don’t think there’s room for conspiracies here, perhaps a fair degree of populism.

    • 0 avatar

      Here’s my unscientific observation. in 2005, the year I turned 54, I bought a 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid. This was the same year I had my first routine colonoscopy. I was told everything on the inside was pink and plump, not a polyp to be founds. It was rare for someone of my age to have such a healthy colon. I was told I should come back in 10 ten years for another colonoscopy.

      I loved my Honda Civic hybrid. Here’s the amazing coincidence… Late in 2008 I started to notice blood in my stools. Symptoms got progrssively worse. By June 2009 another colonoscopy revealed I had rectal cancer. Further tests showed it had already spread to the liver and on lymph node. So I have been undergoing chemotherapy since July 2009. So I read with GREAT interest the research coming out of Isreal. And all the while I thought I had been sitting on “toxic shit” in my former management job.

  • avatar

    Thanks guys….now I get to explain to my gf the difference between EMF and particle radiation and how she is not going to die early or have mutated babies for buying a Prius.

  • avatar
    Ken Magalnik

    Even if your customers are, for some reason, convinced that EMF is harmful, isn’t it just a matter of shielding your conductors? Or you could build a Faraday cage around the cabin, it would not be that difficult.

    • 0 avatar

      You are technically correct, but there are two problems with shielding:
      a) It’s expensive, bulky, and weighty.
      b) On radio devices, you want the radio frequencies to escape, which is part of the alleged health concern.

      And leakage depends upon the frequency and field strength. So even the electrical controls could serve as leakage points. It all makes for a difficult problem.

    • 0 avatar

      An aluminum foil hat would be much simpler.

    • 0 avatar

      Car is already made out of metal so building a faraday cage isn’t exactly hard

  • avatar

    And all of you laughed at me last year for bringing this up. I’ve known about the cell phones too, and no one listened, until the Germans recently.

  • avatar

    The more things change, the more they remain the same.

    James Thurber, about eighty years ago (or so), in one of his reminiscences of his youth, wrote about his grandmother, who was worried that electricity would leak out of the new-fangled wall outlets when they didn’t have anything plugged into them.

    I’m laughing today too.

  • avatar

    Before you start worrying about magnetic fields from your hybrid, you’d better throw out all your household appliances.

    The magnetic fields (the specific kind of radiation you’re talking about here) from household appliances like ovens, microwaves and vacuum cleaners (most anything with a motor) runs 10 to 500 mGauss – as larger or larger than the hybrid fields, but still below the 1000 mGauss health limits set by the EU, WHO, etc. for these kinds of higher frequency intermittent magnetic fields (see this EU report for an example: ).

    The limits you cite from the IARC relate to constant long term constant exposure to low frequency magnetic fields in residential environments (e.g living under power lines). You can read about that very different situation here ( ).

    By using the IARC limits for hybrids (or your blender), you (and the Israeli Environment Ministry) are making a classic apples to oranges comparison mistake. If the IARC limits applied to all the electrical stuff we use on a daily basis, we’d all be braindead by now.

    • 0 avatar
      Tal Bronfer

      Hey, I’m just reporting. Personally, I find this as another classic example of “we’re smarter than anyone else” case, typical of my government.

      Israel operates under different EMR limits, and recommends, as stated, a maximum of 4 mG for extended exposure. For some people, the car is considered an ‘extended exposure’ environment. While I’m wary of the populistic approach, I’m all in for a non-biased study and intelligent dialogue. Unfortunately, this isn’t the way it’s been happening.

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