How Does An EMP Effect Batteries?

Will an EMP effect batteries?

We see it all the time in movies. An EMP provokes a massive traffic jam. Cars get stuck where they stand on the roadways. It’s easy to assume the batteries are dead.

The idea is that an EMP will suck all the juice out of your batteries and everything will stop working.

Does an EMP effect batteries, or is it just an urban myth? Truth is, batteries aren't affected as much as you would think.

How Do We Know An EMP Will Destroy Electronics?

We know what would be affected by an EMP attack because of a 1962 experiment. That year the United States detonated a high-altitude bomb above the pacific ocean.

​The experiment was called "Starfish Prime."  They were testing what the effects would be on the mainland far away.

Discover Magazine outlined the results in their article on the experiments 50th Anniversary. They included:

  • ​Presence of a Bright Aurora in the Sky
  • Blown Streetlights in Hawaii
  • Radio Blackouts
  • Strange Airplane Electrical Surges
  • Telephone Outages
  • Failed Satellites
  • Damaged Electronics
  • Creation of an Artificial Radiation Belt

The test showed no evidence that the EMP pulse affected batteries. Instead, they discovered that it fries sensitive electrical components.

The EMP sends a surge of electromagnetic energy along the grid. Electrical components absorbs that energy via antennas or wiring. The result is massive damage from energy overload.

The EMP can even damage components when they aren't hardwired into the grid at all.

Instead of draining batteries, the EMP fries the sensitive components of electrical devices... unless that device is protected from its electromagnetic field (EMF).​

​Your Batteries Should Work

Batteries will survive and EMP. Their lack of sensitive chips or antennas prevent them from picking up the EMF.

However, no one does High-altitude detonation experiments anymore. The last test was in 1962. Well over 50 years ago. Since then, we have all kinds of new batteries, including lithium and rechargeable batteries.

Your car battery should still work. But, because the EMP fried the sensitive electronics inside, your car still won't run.

Not all cars will fail. Some older cars encase its electronic component in steel. The steel absorbs the EMF pulse, protecting your electronic components. This steel enclosure is a "Faraday Cage."

​Still Not Sure Your Batteries Will Survive?

​To protect your batteries and other sensitive electronics, put them in a Faraday cage. A Faraday cage can be any container made of conductive material. The cage absorbs the EMP's energy surge. This keeps the pulse from reaching your sensitive electronics inside.

In a pinch, use your unplugged microwave as a makeshift Faraday cage. Just make sure to cover the door with the viewing screen in aluminum foil.

Here are a few other ways to protect your electronic devices:

​Bug-Out Faraday Cage - You obviously can’t bug out carrying your microwave. So you’ll want to get a metal box to carry with you. Aluminum is the most lightweight metal to use during bugout. 

Faraday Bag for Laptops - Store your mobile electronics (like laptops and phones) in a military-grade faraday bag.

10-Gallon Metal Can - Even a metal trash can with a tight cover works like a Faraday cage. Just make sure to isolate what you put inside so it doesn’t touch the sides of the can.

​What About Your Solar Rechargeables?

Solar rechargeable batteries should also survive an EMP blast. But, your solar array may lose efficiency. That solar array will be incredibly valuable after an EMP event.

To keep your solar array in top shape get a fold-able version, like the Anker 21W 2-port Solar Charger. It's portable, and can folds up neatly to store in a Faraday cage when not in use. You might as well store extra batteries there too, just in case.

While you’re at it, put your newer flashlights in there too. They might contain chips the EMP could damage.

Keep Your Batteries Unplugged

While the EMP won't affect your batteries directly. Having them connected to your device can drain them over time. You don’t want to pull out an emergency radio, only to find the batteries inside have no charge.

The easiest solution is to not put batteries in a device until you actually need it. Or, if you have a way to keep them stored in the device while it's unplugged, that’s also an option.

​How To Test a Faraday Cage

​How can you be sure your makeshift or store bought cage is going to work during the event? It’s actually pretty simple to test.

Put your smartphone inside your Faraday cage and try to call it. If it rings, there is a leak in the cage.

Try this with your microwave too - once with and without the aluminum foil on the front. You may be surprised to hear it ring without the foil.

​Have you ever had trouble using your smartphone inside a steel building? This happens because the building acts as a natural Faraday Cage. It may not be good for your cell reception, but it will be great if an EMP ever hits.

Making Sure Your Electronics Are Safe​

If you’re worried about your batteries, don’t be. An EMP will not affect them. However, your other electronics may not be so lucky.

Use a Faraday cage to protect sensitive devices. That includes the chargers you will use to recharge your rechargeable batteries. Make sure it's portable, so you can take it with you when you bug out. A lightweight Faraday cage made of aluminum is the best option. It beats relying on a microwave you can’t take with you.

Some people even put spare distributors and ignition coils in their Faraday cage. These are the components of a car most likely to get damaged during an EMP.

​What do you think? What would be the best items to store in a Faraday cage in the event of an EMP? Comment below and share with us your thoughts on how to best prepare for an EMP.

Chris Murphy

Chris grew up near the Poconos in PA. He has enjoyed camping and hiking since his early years as a boy scout.

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