Building Biology | Why I wont buy a hybrid car
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Why I wont buy a hybrid car

Why I wont buy a hybrid car

With global warming, the need to meet zero carbon emissions, and the adverse health effects arising from exposure to traffic related air pollutants (TRAPS) such as asthma, allergies and heart related diseases, a growing number of countries are banning fossil fuel cars in favor for hybrid cars. Whilst this is a great initiative that I support, there are increasing concerns about the exposures to the electrical and magnetic fields arising from the batteries and electronic systems in hybrid cars, which electrically sensitive individuals appear to be reacting to.

The Israeli government cancelled an order of 200 hybrid Toyotas for their police force following excessive levels of radiation, citing exposure to more than 4 hours per day would constitute a health risk.

Types of electric/hybrid vehicles:

  1. Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) – Purely electric vehicles that relies on the battery storage system ie Tesla / Nissan Leaf / Renault Zoe / Jaguar iPace (Singh, Bansal and Singh, 2019)
  2. Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) – as the name implies, a hybrid system that uses a combination of the internal combustion engine (ICE) and an electric motor/battery, with the primary propulsion driven through ICE ie. Toyota Prius (Singh, Bansal and Singh, 2019)
  3. Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) – a variant of the HPEV where the primary propulsion is electric, but also relies on ICE to support it, and allows for direct connection into the electrical grid for charging. Ie Toyota Prius / Mitsubishi Outlander / Chevrolet Volt (Singh, Bansal and Singh, 2019)
  4. Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV) – The primary electrical power source is generated from a chemical reaction within a “fuel cell” Toyota Mirai  (Singh, Bansal and Singh, 2019)

The concern with electric vehicles or hybrid electric vehicles is the electrical fields (EF) and magnetic fields (MF) generated by the complex electrical systems and battery storage systems. For consumer safety, the design of EV’s have trended towards lower voltage (DC) systems to reduce short circuits or electrocution and placing the battery storage and inverter systems in the back seat of the car (for HEV) or the complete floor of the car (for BEV) (Moreno-Torres et al., 2016). Each brand of EV will have different characteristics in EF and MF depending on whether it was front-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive for it’s electrical motors. Rear-wheel drive cards will tend to have batteries and inverters towards the rear to maximize wheel traction, while front wheel drive cars will have the electric motors at the front, but to ensure the most efficient traction, will primarily have longer front sections of the car, and therefore a greater distance created between the electrical systems and the passengers ) (Moreno-Torres et al., 2016). And, based on the total voltage of the car, the lower the voltage, the higher the currents and magnetic fields generated. This will typically be more concerning for BEVs, as they are completely electrical systems with lower total voltage (Moreno-Torres et al., 2016). The level of magnetic fields generated by the EV will vary depending on the situation. Coasting downhill or braking will charge up the batteries, thereby generating EF and MF, while accelerating may or may not generate EF/MF depending on whether it was a BEV, HEV or PHEV.

Building Biologists have measured magnetic fields in excess of 8mG and as high as 65mG in a popular Japanese HEV.  This is a concern in light of the fact that magnetic fields in excess of 4mG are associated with a doubling in childhood leukaemia (Wertheimer & Leeper 1979; Alhbom, Greenland) which is why magnetic fields were classified as Group 2B carcinogen ie “possibly carcinogenic to humans” (IARC, 2002).

Tips to deal with the fields in your electric or hybrid car:

  1. ·      Hire a building biologist to measure the electromagnetic fields in the car (before purchase)
  2. ·      Select an EV that is front-wheel drive with a long front section, which creates as much distance from the electromagnetic fields.
  3. ·      Ensure the battery storage system and inverters are at the front of the car (rather than the driver’s seat, under the passenger seat or the completely floor of the vehicle.
  4. ·      Reduce the amount of time spent driving in an EV. Ie < 20min

References

  1. Klepeis, N. E. et al. (2001) ‘The National Human Activity Pattern Survey (NHAPS): a resource for assessing exposure to environmental pollutants.’, Journal of exposure analysis and environmental epidemiology, 11(3), pp. 231–252. doi: 10.1038/sj.jea.7500165.
  2. Moreno-Torres, P. et al. (2016) ‘Passenger Exposure to Magnetic Fields in Electric Vehicles’, in Modeling and Simulation for Electric Vehicle Applications. InTech. doi: 10.5772/64434.
  3. Singh, K. V., Bansal, H. O. and Singh, D. (2019) ‘A comprehensive review on hybrid electric vehicles: architectures and components’, Journal of Modern Transportation. Springer Singapore, 27(2), pp. 77–107. doi: 10.1007/s40534-019-0184-3.