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From the latest Automotive News: (7 hours labor...OUCH!)

Volvo finds a fix for problem with electromagnetic fields

By Mark Rechtin
Automotive News / March 25, 2002

Volvo has developed a fix for a potential safety problem related to electromagnetic fields generated by three of its vehicles.

A Swedish magazine reported that the Volvo S60, V70 and S80 have electromagnetic fields well above safe levels for their occupants. Electromagnetic fields have been linked to cancer in humans. Volvo denies that safety is an issue but is making a retrofit kit available anyway.

The electromagnetic fields occurred because Volvo put the battery in the trunk of cars based on its P2 platform. Volvo ran a short ground wire to the nearby trunk-body assembly and ran the positive cable to the engine. That generated an electromagnetic field along the positive cable that runs under the passenger compartment.

While electromagnetic-field radiation near the positive cable is relatively high, it dissipates before it can reach the torso or head, said Hans Folkesson, Volvo's senior vice president.

Volvo's answer: A retrofit kit

Volvo's fix involves removing the battery's ground wire and running a new ground wire parallel to the positive line all of the way to the front of the car. Volvo does not plan to move the battery into the engine compartment or change the location of the ground wire in the future except at customer request.

So far, Volvo has marketed the retrofit kit only in Sweden, Folkesson said. The customer must pay for the repair, which costs about 225 euros, the equivalent of $197.82 at current exchange rates. The retrofit kit will be available in the rest of Scandinavia in the next few months.

"We won't market this officially, but anywhere there is a worried customer, we will send the kit and training materials to the nearest dealer," Folkesson said.

The kits also will be available through U.S. dealers, said Dan Johnston, a spokesman for Volvo Cars of North America LLC.

"We will offer it here, but we're not going to go out to the public and say, 'Here's a retrofit for your cars,'" Johnston said. "We're not encouraging people to do this."

Johnston said prices haven't been determined, but labor will be the biggest expense. "You basically have to take the whole interior of the car apart," he said. "The kit takes seven hours to install."

Volvo also will offer the retrofitted battery wires as a factory option on new cars, perhaps packaging them with the climate-control pollen filter.

There is more danger of being exposed to electromagnetic fields if you stand near power lines or travel on a train powered by electricity, said Urban Kristiansson, an adjunct professor at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden and a Volvo senior technical adviser.

"You can get the same EMF reading (recorded in the three Volvos) by having a battery in the engine compartment located near your feet," he said.

BMW exec: Hair dryer is worse

Other European automakers indicated they would not follow Volvo's action.

Burkhard Goschel, BMW AG's management board member for research and development, denied that electromagnetic fields in cars could harm humans. BMW places the battery in the trunk of all of its cars except the Mini.

"If you are using hand-held components, such as a hair dryer, it is much worse. The idea of harmful EMFs in cars is nonsense compared with (everyday exposure to) what is around you," he said.

Mercedes-Benz plans no changes. It puts the battery in the trunk of the CLK, CL, SL, S class and the outgoing E class. A spokesman said the cars "are extremely safe."
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