Can a Tesla Survive an EMP? The Results From Expert Safety Tests Will Surprise You

EMP, short for electromagnetic pulse, is a sudden burst of electromagnetic energy that can occur for natural reasons — such as a solar flare or lightning storm — or be caused by the actions of men — an example would be the detonation of a nuclear bomb. In theory, a hostile power could use a high-altitude nuclear explosion to cause an EMP and knock out the power grid of a country or region, fusing all electric devices.

In this scenario, can a Tesla survive an EMP? A Tesla would not survive if hit by an EMP, as its ignition, self-drive, navigation and locomotion systems all rely on electricity. Also, some Teslas have more than three miles of wiring which will cause more damage due to an EMP.

Therefore, we can say that there are two aspects to this matter. On the one hand, an EMP is bound to destroy a Tesla. Electromagnetic energy of a sufficient strength will melt all electronic systems in a very wide range. Yet, it is unlikely that the blast would reach the engine or electronic systems of a Tesla, especially if it was turned off.

Furthermore, the technology for protecting computers and chips from EMPs — based on a simple Faraday cage — already exists, and there is no reason why it could not be added to future Tesla models, thus adding to their resistance. After all, Elon Musk’s creations already have a bioweapon-proof air filtering system, so it’s not unthinkable that they can also resist this kind of attacks!

Would an EMP Stop an Electric Car? What Experts Have to Say

In the event that an electric car was hit by an EMP, it is highly likely that its engine and other major electronic components would be rendered inoperable. But that is only in the case of an apocalyptic scenario, where a nuclear bomb goes off at a specific altitude or a strong solar flare caresses the planet. And, in that case, you would not worry about your Tesla, not even if it was brand new.

In most cases, electromagnetic impulses would not have the strength to stop the vast majority of cars. For example, Volkswagen is known to proof its cars for lighting strikes up to 800,000 volts. After such a burst, they would restart without an issue.

Electric cars, for their part, are even safer nowadays. While the presence of a wide number of electronic devices is per se a vulnerability, these vehicles can rely on protective shielding for their cables that were not available just years ago — a measure that the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), in a report published in 2019, has found to be extremely effective in mitigating the effects of EMPs.

Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, some metal parts of cars can be substituted by plastics, contributing to better insulation. So, while some cars that are in the immediate blast area could definitely undergo major damages or shut down, there shouldn’t be any catastrophic effects at large.

Will an EMP Destroy Cars? Secrets Car Makers Keep From You

Movies such as GoldenEye have set unrealistic expectations regarding the destructive potential of EMPs. While a High-Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse (HEMP) caused by the detonation of a nuclear warhead could indeed destroy infrastructure and stop all cars having some electronic circuit, this scenario is quite unlikely.

While there probably won’t be a nuclear-level emergency in our lifetime, it is still possible that EMPs of a different nature could strike some area of the planet. But would such an EMP destroy cars? Probably not.

For a starter, it is not even a given that an EMP would fuse the electronic system of all cars. Most likely, some of them would experience some disturbance or shut down in the moment, but would resume working afterwards — possibly with some minor glitches.

Secondly, as research by the electrical engineer Jerry Emanuelson points out, there is no known scientific mechanism that would suggest that an EMP. would physically destroy cars On the contrary, it is likely that simply parking your house in a garage would effectively shield the car from damage.

However, it is interesting to notice that, while car manufacturers did perform some tests in EMP simulators in previous years, they never disclosed what car models were tested, nor with what results. Because of that, it is hard to figure out what types of cars would be more likely to survive an EMP, and under which conditions.

Military testing has also been performed, but in that case the reason for the secrecy is much clearer, as the scenarios were based on an account of the effective nuclear capabilities of the adversaries, which is classified information that cannot be released to the public under any circumstances.

Take a look below of a more scientific breakdown on what an EMP is, and what impacts it might have on you.

Would a Tesla Powerwall Survive an EMP?

The Tesla Powerwall is a battery that stores solar energy to make up for potential shortages of electricity. As such, it can be used to make house appliances work seamlessly in case of an outage. But can a technologically advanced tool such as a Tesla Powerwall survive an EMP?

To answer this question, at least two elements need to be considered. First, it depends on how much electromagnetic energy is released by the EMP, and how close your car was to the epicenter of the blast. In most cases — all cases that do not amount to an all-out nuclear war — the EMP will not be strong enough to fry a Tesla Powerwall, unless it was very close to the source of energy.

Secondly, was the Tesla Powerwall connected to the electric grid when the EMP struck? In that case, the chance that the Powerwall will not survive increases dramatically. That is because the microelectronic parts contained within it are very sensitive to energy differentials, and cannot handle the strong current that comes with an EMP. This would make having a back-up Powerwall stored in a Faraday cage, ideal. An excellent choice that is compact and easy to install would be the Pulsar Plus from the W Wallbox Store on Amazon. Click here for more information!

EMP Protection for Vehicles: 3 Easy Methods You Can Rely On

As we pointed out in previous sections, not only is an EMP an unlikely event, but it would also not cause as much damage to vehicles as Hollywood would lead us to believe. Even so, you might want to know how to implement EMP protections for your car.

This is a perfectly legitimate worry since, as you may know, electronic pieces based on semiconductors are low-voltage and would not survive a sudden energy spike. To help you out, here we have listed some methods that could help shield your vehicle from the damaging electromagnetic blast.

At any rate, if you own an electric car, we must warn you: while all the tips listed below will work in protecting your car to a certain extent, you need to consider that an EMP would have a much worse effect on the power grid than on vehicles. While it is unlikely that it would knock out the entire U.S. grid, according to another EPRI report it is bound to cause regional shortages.

As such, you can expect all charging stations to be out of use. For this reason, it may be quite futile to try and protect a car that won’t be able to run for lack of electricity.

  1. Create a Metal Garage

In all truth, any type of garage would protect your car should an EMP ever occur. However, a concrete garage would still be slightly conducive, while a metal garage would allow for better insulation.

All you have to do is seal all the openings: After that, your car can withstand whatever comes its way, since it’s basically sitting in a homemade Faraday cage.

  1. Store Backups of Electrical Parts

If you own an older car with no solid-state electronics (that is, pieces running on semiconductors), a valid option would be to identify the core electronic parts of the car and store a backup in a small Faraday cage. An excellent choice for the small Faraday cage would be from the Faraday Defense, which can be found on Amazon. Take a closer look here for the perfect sizes for your important electrical items.

While this is certainly easier than building an EMP-proof garage, you will also need a considerable stash of fuel and hands-on experience with cars to have your vehicle up and running after the blast has occurred.

  1. Buy an EMP Shield

EMP shields are devices that are supposed to protect not only the car battery, but also other electronic appliances. However, experts seem divided on the actual usefulness of these items, and some people do not hesitate to call them a scam.

What Does an EMP Do? The Scientific Explanation You Need

As you know by now, an EMP is a sudden surge of electromagnetic energy. It can be brought about by natural causes or be man-made, through the detonation of a nuclear warhead at a specified altitude in the atmosphere. This is a particularly interesting case, as it allows us to show how an EMP works.

A nuclear electromagnetic pulse, in fact, gives life to a complex electromagnetic multi-pulse. This multi-pulse can be divided in three stages: E1, E2, and E2.

  • E1

The E1 component is, in a sense, the acute phase of the blast. In that moment, the nuclear explosion kicks electrons out of the atoms in the upper atmosphere, which start running towards the Earth at a speed that is over 90% that of light!

Before they can hit the surface, though, these electrons interact with the magnetic field of the planet, which redirects the electrons and, combining with their energy, creates a short-lasting but extremely powerful electromagnetic field.

This is what causes the tremendous spike in energy in all electrical conductors that we discussed before. A spike that is so fast that traditional lightning protections can do nothing about it — although today there are transient protectors that can stop the effects of an EMP.

  •  E2

The E2, or “intermediate” component, can be compared in its effect to a lightning-caused pulse. For this reason, experts consider it as the easiest phase to protect electronic devices from. The problem is that it occurs barely a few microseconds after E1: As such, the protective devices may be disabled.

  • E3

The last component of the EMP, E3, is a slow pulse that can last for several seconds or even for minutes. It is the most curious phase, as in this time the magnetic field of the Earth is pulled out of the way and then restored.

In this sense it is like a geomagnetic storm and, much like it, it can destroy power line transformers.

Below Is a Chart That Lists off Cars That Survive an Emp, and Their Popularity:

What cars would survive an empPercentage of total results
Typically, cars around 1963 and prior, in original condition, have very little electronics, transistors and capacitors, and so have a high chance of surviving an emp.16.67%
Many forum users believed agreed that A pre-1970 Diesel’s vehicle would have far less complications, with only possible issues being an electrical ignition.11.11%
Stanley Steamer cars were a requiring mention, with the main reason being they use a steam-powered engine.27.78%
Multiple forum users have done research and frequently quote 2008 study by the U.S Government suggesting that most cars (estimated to be around 90%) will still run with possible malfunctions with smaller electronics.33.33%
There are a lot of older-military vehicles who have safeguards deliberately built in, and so many forums’ users mentioned that these cars would survive an emp.11.11%
Data derived from multiple car & survivalist forums

Are There EMP Proof Vehicles?

As of today, there is not yet sufficient research on EMPs and their effects, and so far, scientists have been hesitant to test out the impact of EMPs on vehicles. We are talking about an unlikely, almost post-apocalyptic scenario. However, we can say for sure that newer cars are likely to be way more vulnerable than older cars, due to their complex technology tools.

In this sense, though, you may want to consider that the first time that an electronic component was added into a car was in 1968, when Volkswagen first used an electronic fuel injection system. While electronics in cars only became popular in the 1980, you would really struggle to find a car model old enough to be completely immune to an EMP.

In short, there is hardly one single model of car available today that would be completely immune to the effects of EMPs. The good news is that most cars would only suffer negligible or temporary damage. In 2004, the EMP Commission published a report on the effects of an EMP on 37 types of vehicles built between 1987 and 2002, with the following results:

  • The electromagnetic pulse did not affect cars whose engine was off at the time of the blast.
  • Some running cars did shut down, but they turned back on without key issues.
  • Some of the cars did show some problems with the electronic system, such as blinking dash lights.
  • Overall, only 10% of the cars underwent major problems after the blast, while the remaining 90% kept working fine, with only minor disturbances. Only 1 car out of 37 did not restart after the EMP.

In conclusion, it is perfectly normal to be half terrified, half fascinated at the possibility of an EMP striking the Earth. At the same time, it might not have the devastating effect that we expect.

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