Saturday, August 02, 2008

Static Electricity and Gas Pumps

I used to think the posted prohibition on re-entering your vehicle while fueling it was intended to make sure the customer keeps an eye on the pump, just in the very unlikely case it should jam somehow, and not auto-shutoff. But I have since learned the real peril is static electricity, (although the article touches on the auto-shutoff issue as well).
"You should never re-enter a vehicle when you're fueling," Mr. Wormser said.

That's because a person who re-enters a vehicle and slides across the seat can acquire a static charge of thousands of volts, caused by friction between two electrically dissimilar materials, such as clothing and seat upholstery, said Dr. Robert E. Nabours, an electrical engineer. If the charge is not harmlessly discharged through the person's shoes or by the person touching metal, such as part of a grounded car, an electrical arc can jump from a hand to the nozzle, igniting gas vapors and starting a fire.

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