In the middle of a storm with the soft-top down, occupants of the new Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class Cabriolet are just as well protected against lightning as passengers in cars with a rigid roof.
Recently the The Top Gear team created an experiment to find out what it would be like if you were struck by lightning while in your car.
The same holds true for lightning when it strikes metal vehicles - the outer surface carries most of the electricity. The state-of-the-art steel and aluminium design of the CLK soft-top - featuring main mounts that are each fastened to the car body at three points - shields the car interior from the powerful electrical fields generated by lightning strikes. In the event of such a strike, the longitudinal struts and cross members that make up the soft-top frame assembly act like a Faraday Cage, thus allowing the electri-cal current to flow towards the outside of the frame and ensuring that the car interior remains a "field-free zone". Contrary to popular belief, the reason for this isn't because cars have rubber tyres which insulate you from the ground.


Faraday cages are named after the English scientist Michael Faraday, who invented them in 1836.
During the series of laboratory tests carried out at Berlin's Institute for High Voltage and Power Engineering, scientists discharged several dozen lightning impulses across the CLK Cabriolet using powerful capacitors connected in series. CLK Cabriolet confirmed the protective effect of the soft-top struc-ture acting as a Faraday Cage: the lightning current was guided harmlessly to ground via the soft-top frame assembly, the car body and the tyres. The reason you're protected in a car during a lightning storm is actually because the car acts like a faraday cage.
Anything inside the conducting object (the cage) will be protected from the external electrical current. A complete metal shield is necessary for full protection - so if you're stranded during a lightning storm, take cover inside a car with the windows wound up.


This principle was discovered by the British physicist Michael Faraday (1791-1867) at the beginning of the 19th century and still forms the basis for all so-phisticated lightning protection systems to this day. Fibreglass bodied cars are not safe as the outside body needs to be conductive to form a Faraday cage and fibreglass is an insulator.



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