Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Magnetic Fields in Diesel, Gasoline and Hybrid Cars

Magnetic Fields in Diesel, Gasoline and Hybrid Cars

Joel's comments: Many experts believe the ICNIRP guidelines for maximum general public exposure to magnetic fields do not adequately protect the public from health risks.

See my EMR Safety web site for more information about the magnetic fields in cars:
Hybrid and Electric Automobiles Should Be Re-Designed to Reduce Electromagnetic Radiation Risks.


Characterization of Extremely Low Frequency Magnetic Fields from Diesel, Gasoline and Hybrid Cars under Controlled Conditions

Hareuveny R, Sudan M, Halgamuge MN, Yaffe Y, Tzabari Y, Namir D, Kheifets L. Characterization of Extremely Low Frequency Magnetic Fields from Diesel, Gasoline and Hybrid Cars under Controlled Conditions. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2015 Jan 30;12(2):1651-1666.


This study characterizes extremely low frequency (ELF) magnetic field (MF) levels in 10 car models.

Extensive measurements were conducted in three diesel, four gasoline, and three hybrid cars, under similar controlled conditions and negligible background fields.

Averaged over all four seats under various driving scenarios the fields were lowest in diesel cars (0.02 μT), higher for gasoline (0.04-0.05 μT) and highest in hybrids (0.06-0.09 μT), but all were in-line with daily exposures from other sources. Hybrid cars had the highest mean and 95th percentile MF levels, and an especially large percentage of measurements above 0.2 μT. These parameters were also higher for moving conditions compared to standing while idling or revving at 2500 RPM and higher still at 80 km/h compared to 40 km/h. Fields in non-hybrid cars were higher at the front seats, while in hybrid cars they were higher at the back seats, particularly the back right seat where 16%-69% of measurements were greater than 0.2 μT.

As our results do not include low frequency fields (below 30 Hz) that might be generated by tire rotation, we suggest that net currents flowing through the cars' metallic chassis may be a possible source of MF. Larger surveys in standardized and well-described settings should be conducted with different types of vehicles and with spectral analysis of fields including lower frequencies due to magnetization of tires.
Open access:

Previous work suggests that major sources of MF in cars include the tires and electric currents [4,5]. The level of MF exposure depends on the position within the vehicle (e.g., proximity to the MF sources) and can vary with different operating conditions, as changes to engine load can induce MFs through changes in electric currents. Scientific investigations of the levels of MF in cars are sparse: only one study evaluated fields only in non-hybrid cars [6], two studies of hybrid cars have been carried out [4,7], and few studies have systematically compared exposures in both hybrid and non-hybrid cars [8,9,10,11,12], some based on a very small number of cars

In hybrid cars, the battery is generally located in the rear of the car and the engine is located in the front. Electric current flows between these two points through cables that run underneath the passenger cabin of the car. This cable is located on the left for right-hand driving cars and on the right for left-hand driving cars. Although in principle the system uses direct current (DC), current from the alternator that is not fully rectified as well as changes to the engine load, and therefore the current level, can produce MFs which are most likely in the ELF range. While most non-hybrid cars have batteries that are located in the front, batteries in some of them are located in the rear of the car, with cables running to the front of the car for the electrical appliances on the dashboard. In this study, all gasoline and diesel cars had batteries located in the front of the car.

...the percent of time above 0.2 µT was the most sensitive parameter of the exposure. Overall, the diesel cars measured in this study had the lowest MF readings (geometric mean less than 0.02 μT), while the hybrid cars had the highest MF readings (geometric mean 0.05 μT). Hybrid cars had also the most unstable results, even after excluding outliers beyond the 5th and 95th percentiles. With regard to seat position, after adjusting for the specific car model, gasoline and diesel cars produced higher average MF readings in the front seats, while hybrid cars produced the highest MF readings in the back right seat (presumably due to the location of the battery). Comparing the different operating conditions, the highest average fields were found at 80 km/h, and the differences between operating conditions were most pronounced in the back right seat in hybrid cars. Whether during typical city or highway driving, we found lowest average fields for diesel cars and highest fields for hybrid cars.

Previous works suggest that the magnetization of rotating tires is the primary source of ELF MFs in non-hybrid cars [5,15]. However, the relatively strong fields (on the order of a few μT within the car) originating from the rotating tires are typically at 5–15 Hz frequencies, which are filtered by the EMDEX II meters. ....

Overall, the average MF levels measured in the cars’ seats were in the range of 0.04–0.09 μT (AM) and 0.02–0.05 μT (GM). These fields are well below the ICNIRP [17] guidelines for maximum general public exposure (which range from 200 μT for 40 Hz to 100 μT for 800 Hz), but given the complex environments in the cars, simultaneous exposure to non-sinusoidal fields at multiple frequencies must be carefully taken into account. Nevertheless, exposures in the cars are in the range of every day exposure from other sources. Moreover, given the short amount of time that most adults and children spend in cars (about 30 minutes per day based on a survey of children in Israel (unpublished data), the relative contribution of this source to the ELF exposure of the general public is small. However, these fields are in addition to other exposure sources. Our results might explain trends seen in other daily exposures: slightly higher average fields observed while travelling (GM = 0.096 μT) relative to in bed (GM = 0.052 μT) and home not in bed (GM = 0.080 μT) [1]. Similarly, the survey of children in Israel found higher exposure from transportation (GM = 0.092 µT) compared to mean daily exposures (GM = 0.059 µT). Occupationally, the GM of time-weighted average for motor vehicle drivers is 0.12 μT [18].


Joel M. Moskowitz, Ph.D., Director
Center for Family and Community Health
School of Public Health
University of California, Berkeley

Electromagnetic Radiation Safety

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