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. 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.
The common wisdom is that in the case of an EMP, most cars since, say the 80s and up that rely heavily on engine management computers will be severely disabled, likely permanently. But the more research I did, the more I realized that my daydream was founded on bad data, and that guy selling that moldy Jetta is probably full of shit, which, of course, would be a first for Craigslist. We tested a sample of 37 cars in an EMP simulation laboratory, with automobile vintages ranging from 1986 through 2002.
Just to make things more confusing, there's been EMP devices made specifically for car-disabling purposes, like this one covered by our pals at Gizmodo. For your regular car, the easiest protection is to park inside a giant Faraday cage, like a metal garage. A Faraday cage works by three mechanisms: (1) the conductive layer reflects incoming fields, (2) the conductor absorbs incoming energy, and (3) the cage acts to create opposing fields. Field cancelation occurs when the free carriers in the conductive material rapidly realign to oppose the incident electric field. I read on another blog that an old microwave oven (old plugged of course) could be used for small items.
An EMP is not a continuous event, it is a burst of energy that is released, the damage is done, and then it’s gone, unless it is caused by a solar storm which could last for several hours or even days. The Carrington Event of 1859 cause problems with telegraph offices because the telegraph wires between the offices acted as a large antenna system, which collected the energy and delivered it to the devices connected to it.
The truth is that no one knows for sure what will work without knowing the exact characteristics of electromagnetic pulse and that is impossible to know in advance. What you keep in your Faraday cage always are the spare electronic parts for your car or truck, your spare ham radio, your extra laptop computer, etc. If you have a set of 2 way radios that work ok in your area, and you are happy with them, then buy a second set and put them in the cage. I keep hand held wallis talkies for communication on the farm and with my neighbors Ina faraday box. It’s good that you do such important work with things for a living because if you had to interact with people you would be out of a job.
Some articles I’ve read refer to super EMP devices, nuclear devices designed for maximum magnetic yield. I have a lead lined ammo box , that was originally used to transport radioactive pharmaceuticals in for small stuff . Instead of thinking of a faraday cage like you would an umbrella in a rainstorm, think of it instead like a sponge you are standing under.


That is perhaps the best analogy I can come up with for how a faraday cage is supposed to work. 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. 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 biggest evidence to suggest that most cars will probably be just fine without any modification comes from a study done by the EMP Commission specifically to evaluate the effect on national infrastructure in the event of an EMP burst. This is largely the result of a car's wiring and electronics already being pretty well shielded against electromagnetic interference (so you can, you know, still listen to the radio and not the noises made by your fuel injection computer) and because your car can act a bit like a big Faraday cage. And maybe smaller amber lanterns for the turn indicators, though I'm not crazy about running in and out of the car to turn them on and off to blink.
If the cage is made from something non-conductive, the free carriers are not mobile enough to realign and cancel the incident field. The conductivity of nearly any metal is good enough to allow the carriers to easily realign to cancel external fields. Each has its own level of effectiveness as covered in my book, Disaster Preparedness for EMP Attacks and Solar Storms.
A steel trash can with a very tight fitting lid does a pretty good job of acting as a Faraday cage.
I tested ammo cans for my book, and they didn’t do great because of the less than perfect seam going around them. I don’t expect to have a serious auto accident, but that doesn’t mean I don’t buy coverage for it. The reason you're protected in a car during a lightning storm is actually because the car acts like a faraday cage.
Almost all the cars around me are fried, leaving me in my archaic Beetle free to drive around and over the poor bastards, getting to wherever I was going unimpeded. On a very basic level, a Faraday cage is a conductive enclosure that causes electromagnetic force to travel along the outside of the structure and leave what's inside mostly alone. Since diesels have no ignition system at all, they don't really have to worry about any sort of electromagnetic frippery, and a diesel can be made to burn almost any kind of oil, so it'd be useful for the likely troubled times to follow an EMP event. For example, if silver (the best conductor) is used in place of aluminum, the skin depth at 200 MHz is reduced to about 4.5 microns.
It would be fine sitting inside a Faraday cage as long as you’re not scrubbing your bare electronics against it.
Check out disasterprepper videos (or my name) and you’ll find one on Faraday Cage testing.
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.


Lurking on survivalist forums, I did learn that a microwave oven can make an excellent Faraday cage, so that's where you want to jam your laptop and iPhone if you think an EMP attack is coming. Arthur Bradley, author of Disaster Preparedness for EMP Attacks and Solar Storms, answers a few basic questions and perhaps debunks a few myths. The enclosure itself can be conductive, or it can be made of a non-conductive material (such as cardboard or wood) and then wrapped in a conductive material (such as aluminum foil). The bottom line is that an ungrounded cage protects the contents from harmful electromagnetic fields as well as a grounded one.
It resides in my basement and the electronic items in it don’t seem to care if it looks dated. I am not sure of your experience, but I say this as a NARTE certified EMC engineer who has worked in electromagnetics for 20 years.
Fibreglass bodied cars are not safe as the outside body needs to be conductive to form a Faraday cage and fibreglass is an insulator. As an example, consider that for a frequency of 200 MHz, the skin depth of aluminum is only about 21 microns.
The results from testing three different types of bags are provided in Disaster Preparedness for EMP Attacks and Solar Storms. 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.
Also, lay a piece of plywood or cardboard on the floor so that it can be walked on without damaging the aluminum foil. 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. Anything inside the conducting object (the cage) will be protected from the external electrical current. 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.
The same holds true for lightning when it strikes metal vehicles - the outer surface carries most of the electricity. Faraday cages are named after the English scientist Michael Faraday, who invented them in 1836.



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