Lessons learned from the Element Cat Shield™

Transparency is a big deal for us. We believe it builds trust in our company and our products. We get a lot of requests for products and aren't always the quickest to market, but we don't cut corners. Every product is thoroughly tested and tested to make sure we can make the best product for our customers. We wanted to share our experience with one particular application to demonstrate the rigor we put behind each product and the lessons learned. 

The Honda Element is a highly sought after converter due to the vehicle's high clearance and black market prices. We've spent the last few months working on a solution that would protect the converter, protect the vehicle and occupants, and provide convenience and smart design that people expect from our products. The process was not easy because we had to figure out how to create a device that would deter thieves when the converter was so exposed. We knew we had to create a 3D structure and came up with our first design concept. 

First design (temperature test failure)

Our first design basically was a box that protected the converter. It looked like a good concept as it protected the converter and looked similar to the boxy shape of the Element. While our design satisfied our first goal of protecting the converter, it ended up failing our standards of protecting the vehicle and occupants.  

After we build a prototype, we run it through a series of driving tests to measure temperature, noise, and vibration. This first concept failed miserably on the temperature testing. We use thermal probes during our drive cycles to measure temperature changes inside the areas that our shields cover. We have probes located between the converter and the floor of the vehicle to see how hot it gets. We do this with and without a shield to measure the differences. 

We were shocked to see that, by encasing the converter, the temperature between the converter and floor board reached up to 700 degrees (nearly 300 degrees hotter with a shield than without) while the vehicle was at a stop. We were literally making an oven underneath the car. With no way for the heat to escape, it was being trapped inside the structure. What worried us even more was what could happen if someone installed our shield and their converter was failing or overheated. A failed or failing converter can have temperatures reach up to 2,000 degrees. This possibility was unacceptable, and we went to work on a way to address it.

Second redesign (temperature test failure)

Wanting to look at ways to release heat from the shield, we designed as many vents and gaps as we could to allow air to flow in and out of the structure. However, despite all the added ventilation and openings to allow heat to escape, the temperature readings were still too high and did not pass our tests (we also tested the inside temperature of the air inside the device, which went beyond the limit of our IR camera of 300 degrees). We saw only marginal temperature differences between the designs. At this point we were fairly certain we had to scrap any design that would box-in the converter.

Final redesign (success)

We learn from failures and from the past. Knowing that we had to make some type of structure for the converter, we focused on the most vulnerable sections--the pipe. We had success with a similar problem with our Prius Gen 1 converter where we left the converter exposed but covered the pipe that thieves target. In our final design, we basically prevent someone from cutting and ripping off the converter, while leaving it uncovered so that the heat can escape. Our design gives a thief nowhere to cut and does no harm to the vehicle or occupants. In addition to the protection of the converter, occupants, and vehicle, we also provide the convenience of making our shields fully removable and protected by tamper-proof screws. And of course, we think it looks pretty awesome.

Upping the game

The challenge is to make a product that offers the best protection while also being as affordable as possible. At MillerCAT, our main goal is to give you the best device possible at the best value. There are certain things on which we will not compromise, and we wanted to give Element owners the best product out there. We felt that we HAD to make our Element shield in 304 stainless steel. We know these owners value quality, ruggedness, and craftsmanship, and we are extremely excited to offer this product to them!

Honda Element Cat Shield™ available now!

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