Environment Ministry repeats advice favoring hybrids

Recommendation comes after tests show battery radiation emitted is safe.

April 22, 2010 07:37
3 minute read.
Toyota Hybrid

Hybrid311. (photo credit: AP)


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The Environmental Protection Ministry will continue to recommend hybrid cars to the public after a study of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation from the cars was completed, the ministry announced Thursday.

The study found that hybrid cars did not emit dangerously high levels of radiation. No country in the world has put any limitations on selling hybrid cars, which run on both gasoline and battery power, and neither will Israel.

The ministry began to examine the issue last July after the Israel Police requested hybrids as patrol cars to save on gasoline. The Environmental Protection Ministry opined at the time that since patrolmen would sit in the hybrids for many hours each day, it would be better to refrain from switching to hybrids because of the non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation emitted by the batteries.

Such radiation is emitted by any electronic device, including cellular telephones and radios.

However, that assessment did not apply to regular citizens who were not expected to sit in their hybrid car for many hours a day. Nevertheless, the ministry deemed it appropriate to investigate the matter in general.

The ministry commissioned two companies to conduct thorough, objective tests. In January, a committee of 12 experts, government-employed and not, was asked for their opinion, and the committee submitted its recommendations to the ministry just recently.

Based on this advice, the ministry decided not to change its recommendation to the public to purchase hybrids for their environmental benefits such as reduced gasoline use, which in turns leads to reduced greenhouse gas emissions and pollution.

Only two companies sell hybrid cars in Israel – Toyota and Honda – and so only their cars were examined. The car companies were fully involved in the studies and accorded right of reply at each stage.

According to Israel’s standards, people should be exposed on a regular basis to no more than 3-4 milligauss a year. For short periods, exposure of up to 1,000 milligauss is permissible.

The ministry examined radiation levels for all seats in the car based on 18 hours of use per week. Eighteen hours is an average of two-and-a-half-hours a day, seven days a week, all year round – an amount chosen as more than most people would use their cars.

According to a table released by the ministry, most of Toyota’s hybrid cars either emitted the same or slightly higher radiation than internal combustion engine cars. For example, a third-generation Toyota Prius released less radiation than a Mazda 6. The average for the Prius 3G was 1.1 milligauss per year no matter where one sat in the car.

A second-generation Prius got up to 3.9 milligauss in the right rear seat, and 2.7 and 2.0 in the other rear seats.

Honda’s hybrids scored slightly higher. The highest radiation value discovered at some point during a test drive of one of the vehicles tested was in the Honda IMA, which got up to 5.5 milligauss in the right rear seat. The Honda Civic hybrid got to 4.9 in the middle rear seat.

The ministry stressed that the basic calculation of 18 hours a week was rather stringent – meaning few people with hybrids drive 2.5 hours every day. Moreover, the amounts recorded for Toyotas and Hondas were still within healthy limits.

The committee of experts suggested rating hybrids A to C to enable the customer to make an informed choice. The committee likened the decision to drive a hybrid to the personal decision every person makes whether to use a cellular phone or other electronic devices, all of which emit electromagnetic fields.

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