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  1. #1
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    "Zapped" in a 2006 HCH

    I recently bought a used 2006 HCH (3 months ago), with 57,000 km on the clock (I'm in Australia). Within a few weeks, the battery discharged catastrophically in trafffic one day, going from full to 1-bar in 10 seconds, while my feet began to feel very hot.

    The battery slowly re-charged in traffic. I had not driven it very much for a month or so (short trips ~15mins each way to the local railway station where I commute from a regional city to the local major city via fast train), then did a couple of long trips to/from the main centre (~125 km each way). It did the melt-down thing once more during one of the short return runs from the railway station. My feet then increasingly started to feel "cooked", even during normal driving without any 'meltdown' of the battery level. The burning/tingling effect is most pronounced during the charging/coasting phase.

    I asked my wife to try it, and she too noticed the same issue, most especially in the charging cycle, less clear in the assist phase. It also has the strange buzzing noise at around 35-45 km/h that has been reported elsewhere in these fora.

    I then asked a local Honda dealer to test drive it - he agreed emphatically that there is an effect. He liasied with head office techs who instructed the local techs to make various measurements of continuities of currents (they didn't add up, so there was clearly some leakage going on), suggested some trial interventions and a repeat test drive. The dealer took it out again for a long-ish test drive, said he felt his feet were being fried, reported it to head office who instructed him to stop driving it. He told me he felt awful for hours afterwards. They sent a tow truck to take it away to the head office workshop for more testing (after asking for my release permission to do so).

    My feet have had a fairly constant strong burning sensation for well over a week, as well as on shins, thighs and torso, which sensation is gradually fading and strongest towards the feet. I am obviously very concerned. I await the results of the head office workshop tech testing which will be carried out. Best guess is that there is some leakage of EMFs into the passenger cabin, strongest around the feet on the driver's side. As you know, the IMA motor is co-axial with the petrol motor, and located on the driver's side (right hand side in Australia), while the combined petrol/electric motor sits transverse to the long axis of the car. In other words, the electric motor is right in front of the driver and right on top of the driver's feet, given the geometry of the motor/cabin arrangement in newer model Hondas.

    I have asked Honda for a complete set of measurements of field strengths and distributions in the passenger cabin, as some medical personnel I know have expressed concern.

    I would welcome any suggestions about any specific type of gaussmeter which is suited to making measurements in cars over a broad spectrum of frequencies (as opposed to the 50-60 Hz specific models for ambient fields in domestic settings). I have a doctorate in physics, so technical terminology will neither scare nor bamboozle me.

    The reason I ask is that I can also feel heating sensations (less pronounced, but present nonetheless) in my toes/feet in both my wife's 2006 Odyssey (which I didn't before) and the dealer's loaner car, a 2008 Jazz, almost certainly due to the sensitivity induced by being zapped by the Civic, so there is also some interest in the ambient EM fields in the passenger cabin for non-hybrid Hondas.

    The final reflection is that, given this car has done so many kms (the local dealer said it was 3-4 times more than any comparable model he's seen), is this simply a one-off dud/lemon, or is this possibly an early indicator of an effect that shows up after considerable use? Unknown; but a research question I think it is worth asking...

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  3. #2
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    Hi DRJOE; That's one heck of

    Hi DRJOE;

    That's one heck of an issue, alright. What I can tell you is that today's hybrid vehicles have been tested for EMF levels for the better part of the last 10 years by many government agencies, consumer advocacy and protection groups and several universities that I can think of, and the EMF levels have been found to be a non issue.
    In reality, I don't know what criteria and thresholds were chosen to define whats acceptable or not but, hybrid detractors looked into this area and were left empty handed. Hummm...

    Now, there are situations where the levels can be breached and I know first hand of at least one scenario where this happened with another hybrid vehicle. This particular case had to do with improper repairs after an accident and subsequent malfunctions that the dealer identified some time later.

    Has your car been involved in an accident of some kind? Is there a way for you to get the vehicle's history? Improper structure restoration and poor re-assembly and grounding can often be the prominent culprits.

    Cheers;

    MSantos

  4. #3
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    Well, it's with the head

    Well, it's with the head office techs now. They rang to say they are unable to detect any problem. It's a good thing a Honda dealer experienced the zapping, so there is independent corroboration. The techs had floated the same scenario you described, so they tracked down the previous owner organisation (it was a company vehicle) who claim there was never an accident; but there was damage to the sill under the driver's door...

    It turns out that there is no record of who carried out servicing beyond the initial one - I was not shown the books until after I agreed to buy it, even though I'd asked to do so, and it was intimated that there were books with a full service history. Well, yes there's a service book, but there is a blank space from 10,000km to now (60,000). Needless to say I am less than happy about that. The techs are driving it around now hoping the problem recurs so that they can track it down. Possibly the long trip on the tow truck to head office caused enough vibration to re-seat something which had unseated. Unknown.

    They are keeping the car until they figure it out. I'm being given a replacement later this week (not a hybrid, thanks; this little black duck is a bit gun-shy at the moment). They are quite keen to sort this out, of course, as they seem to have the foresight to realise that pre-emptive "pro-action" is hugely preferable to crisis re-action. The lesson of Mitsubishi systematically ignoring product faults and complaints until it brought down a division is obviously clear in the minds of the Honda business intell folks.

    Meanwhile, I continue to feel burning/tingling in my feet in non hybrids and even non-Hondas, probably due to being hyper-sensitized to even the very small em fields in most cars. This is quite concerning and somewhat annoying. I await the day I can ride in a car without feeling burning/tingling in my feet where the shoes themselves do not get warm (ie it does not appear to be due to conduction or convection of heat via air through the shoes). I experienced this today in a large Ford in the back seat. Once I get out of the car (any car), it diminshes to almost nothing apart from a residual after-effect that slowly fades with time.

    I don't doubt that lots of work was done in testing these types of vehicle, so it seems likely to me that this is a dud/lemon rather than a systemic problem. But, you never know, and so I'm glad Honda are being serious about this.

    Regards,
    DrJoe

  5. #4
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    DrJoe, Since you had a very

    DrJoe,
    Since you had a very rapid discharge of your battery assuming it is not an instrument error, there would be obvious visual evidence of the arching that occurred during the discharge. Absence of visual evidence would point me to the battery.

    Regards,

    SW

  6. #5
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    Update: The head office

    Update: The head office customer relations manager rang me a couple of weeks ago to let me know that the technical manager experienced the 'rapid discharge' phenomenon on two separate occasions while driving it around. There is now therefore a second Honda-based confirmation of something funny going on with the vehicle. They have not, however, reported ever experiencing the burning/tingling sensation which the local dealer experienced during his test drive.

    I was told that they then contacted the Honda factory in Japan who said that they had never heard about this happening anywhere in the world, ever. I was then told that a brand new IMA battery would be sent on special consignment to replace the current one under warranty. This was estimated to take about two weeks or so. I am yet to hear from them.

    This raises an interesting question, though, which I'd like to ask of any technical people who might be considering this situation.

    Q: Given that the car is insulated from the road by rubber tyres, when the IMA battery discharges so quickly, where does the stored energy go?

    From my background in physics, I have assumed that the stored energy is radiated away as an electromagnetic field. But is there another way the energy could be dissipated?

    Another thought that comes to mind is that perhaps the IMA battery has been discharging during much of the time I've had it, only slowly; i.e., without the obvious speed it has shown on the four occasions noted. Or, could there be a short somewhere in the car's IMA sub-system which has also lead to energy leakage? But again, the same question arises from basic physics: where does it go and how is it dissipated?

    This is why I have suggested to Honda on a couple of occasions that the technical people there measure the ambient EM fields in the Civic using, e.g., a gauss meter or magnetometer, and especially if and at the same time that the heating/tingling sensation is experienced by anyone driving the car. The response has each time been, essentially, "huh?". I therefore doubt that it has been done.

    (I continue to experience a tingling/burning in my feet, whenever I now get into any car and travel for more than a few minutes (especially when in the driver's seat - usually my wife's 2006 Odyssey - although I have also felt it in the replacement/hire vehicles provided by Honda during the Civic's absence). The burning/tingling seems to increase in strength in proportion to the time spent in the car. I will soon be consulting a neurologist to attempt to discover why this sensitivity might exist.)

    I repeat my earlier question: Does anyone in this forum know of any instruments which are designed for making measurements of EMFs in cars, as opposed to the EM fields found in domestic or industrial settings?

    I'll post more here once I hear back from Honda.

    Cheers,
    DrJoe

  7. #6
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    [For some reason, this forum

    [For some reason, this forum keeps rejecting my followup posts as spam, and has done so for well over a year and a half. But I think this needs finalising so here is another attempt to do so...]

    Well, I spoke with a neurologist at a major teaching hospital - he is a lecturer, researcher and clinician - about the foot thing. I explained the background which has led up to this current situation. His view is that the symptoms I am experiencing are consistent with a possible nerve injury due to an electromagnetic source. He has indicated that he will do some further background research on this, as there is a body of literature in the medical journals dealing with similar sensations and nerve pain brought on by, e.g., non-lethal electrocution, or similar electromagnetic events. It seems that I may well have been hyper-sensitised to even very small EM fields in non-hybrid cars as a result of the prolonged exposure in the Civic (recall that I almost certainly drove the car for considerably longer distances than anyone else, including Honda technical people). In the meantime, he has given me some medication to dampen the nerve pain, which has been partially effective - the sensations are muted when driving and afterwards, but not eliminated. There thus seems to be a genuine physical effect going on.

    Honda also emailed to say that they are now returning the car, with the IMA battery replaced, and the 60,000km service done "with compliments", as well a few minor bits of work (eg wipers).

    I emailed back to say that, given what has gone on and the neurologist's opinion, that I am (understandably you would think) reluctant to expose myself to even the remote possibility of any further electromagnetic effects in the future, whether 'minimal' (as a passage in an email from Honda Japan has suggested is the case for normal driving of the Civic), or not (as appears to have been the case from the IMA battery cell failure, which was Honda Japan's assessment of what the local technical manager also observed, that seems to have given rise to my current hyper-sensitivity). I therefore stated that I did not want the vehicle returned to me, as it looked very much that I had been 'zapped' by the car - most likely because of the now-diagnosed faulty IMA battery causing electromagnetic leakage - and had suffered a physical injury as a result.

    Instead, I suggested that they refund the purchase price and keep the vehicle in order to carefully examine its further operation over time. That is, that I thought the car should be examined carefully on a continuing basis, as it could be a precursor of some possible headaches for Honda in the future if this effect is not an isolated one specific to this particular vehicle. I said that it would be wisest to avoid such a possibility by keeping it for more failure-mode testing and risk analysis. (Or, if not, to do a generous trade-in deal on a different vehicle, given that I had had it for only a few months before the fault developed).

    The response was a longish email which sought to "clarify their position". It said that they had interviewed the previous owner organisation who never found a problem with it, nor were any concerns raised by the many people who drove it. It noted that no-one who had been involved in the technical division had ever experienced the burning/tingling effect. It also (incorrectly) stated that they had not been able to establish any fault with it, other than the IMA battery indicator discharge. This seems to suggest that it was the indicator, rather than the battery wihich was at fault, even though an earlier email had stated that Honda Japan advised replacement of the IMA battery "as it was likely showing signs of defective cells". During replacement of the IMA battery, the email states, all wiring/circuits, connections and componentry were examined and no faults were found. There was also mention made that when they contacted Honda Japan to report the case, Honda Japan advised that they had not received any similar field reports from around the world about the hybrid model since its introduction in 2002. Then there was the rather strange statement that they also advised that incorrect seating position could cause tingling due to restriction of blood circulation in parts of the body. Well, perhaps. But I reported BURNING as well, so I take this comment as disingenuous at best and as a side-swipe at worst. It stated that refund/trade-in discussions are commercial matters that they cannot become involved with. The email then concludes with statements that they have been more than supportive in investigating the car etc providing a hire car for transport etc carrying out the 60,000km service etc etc etc and that they are unable to offer any more advice.

    Well. In my reply, I acknowledged the amount of effort that went into examining the car and I indicated how impressed I was with how seriously they had undertaken to investigate field reports of possible issues or faults with the vehicle. I did re-iterate that I was not the only person who felt the burning/tingling sensation (which seemed to be the implication in their email) and that a Honda representative had confirmed it independently. I also expressed that I understood that they could not get involved in commercial matters.

    But, think about this for a moment, with your foresight hat on. I reminded Honda that I actually suggested that they keep the car so that they could conduct further risk assessment and failure-mode analysis. Why? There is the plausible possibility that this sort of thing may crop up again as other hybrids reach the same degree of mileage that this vehicle has reached, which is considerable for its relatively young age (some 3-4 times more than comparable vehicles, I understand form the local dealer). Now, I teach Corporate Strategy in the MBA here at my university, and heading off these kinds of potential risk 'wildcards' on consumer products obviously features very highly as part of managing risk and avoiding possible high-profile litigation arising from the introduction of new technologies, which can damage the brand. My suggestion was motivated from a desire to ensure that neither Honda nor myself were disadvantaged by the vehicle fault (admitted by Honda Japan) which had led us to this point. The intention was thus to find a 'win-win' in this situation, and was certainly NOT vexatious. I sought to clarify that, in order to avoid any misinterpretation of what I was suggesting. I then said that if such pro-active risk management was not feasible, or was not going to be undertaken, then I would certainly seek to negotiate a trade-in deal with the local dealership (with whom I had been very happy). I finished the email by urging Honda to investigate this sort of issue further, as it could easily be a 'black swan'-type issue, which might ultimately damage the Honda brand or image down the line. It would be a shame if that did occur when it could have been avoided by the use of a bit of strategic foresight.

    So, that's where it ended. As soon as they sent it back I visited the local Honda dealership to work out a trade-in price on a *non-hybrid* vehicle, and traded away the hybrid (at a fair loss, too, I might add, of several thousand dollars).

    Sadly, although I wanted to do the right thing and reduce my footprint on the planet, my foray into new/alternative technology merely seems to have got me stomped on and zapped for my trouble. I shall now wait until the technology is more mature; or perhaps for the hydrogen-combustion model of the next generation of vehicles, given that internal combustion is a well-understood power source, even if the fuel itself is novel.

    Cheers,
    DrJoe

  8. #7
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    I might add that, on looking

    I might add that, on looking back on this experience from the vantage point of nearly a year and a half, although I owned the car for 6 months, fully 3 of those were spent with the car at Honda's maintenance facility. And that is not a good look for any vehicle.

    I now have a late-model non-hybrid Mitsubishi Lancer, and my feet no longer tingle or burn when driving it, which was one of the tests I subjected potential replacement cars to. I also chose a model that has CVT to attempt to reduce fuel consumption somewhat. I have done trips with it that got around 7.5 L/100 km, which is not so bad, considering the Honda generally got around 6.5.

    In short, I really wanted the Honda hybrid to be The Car, but the technology is still not mature. I worry for you all, based on my sideswipe with the possible downsides of hybrid tech.

    Best wishes,
    DrJoe

  9. #8

    Interesting saga, thanks for

    Interesting saga, thanks for sharing.

    Does your new Lancer offer realtime display of mileage,coupled with accumulating mileage since reset of trip meter? I find this is getting more common, I've seen it in a couple of non-hybrid cars in the last year, a great feature imho.

  10. #9
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    Today I received a letter

    Today I received a letter from Honda Australia announcing a product safety recall affecting my old Honda Civic Hybrid vehicle. Apparently, there is a potential concern with the DC-DC converter which is part of the hybrid charging system; it seems that during manufacture, an electronic part may have been damaged. Thus, the car is being recalled to have this part replaced and repairs carried out free of charge.

    Given the above record of my experience with the car, there is a bitter irony in this, wouldn't you say?

    DrJoe

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