For nearly 100 years, drivers have been listening to AM Radio, an American institution that broadcasts news, traffic, weather, sports and a variety of other programming.
But as EVs begin to take over more of the U.S. market, dashboard staples could be as big a part as hand-crank windows and car ashtrays.
A growing number of electric models are ditching AM radios, a shift broadcasters are calling a worry that could spell trouble for stations and deprive drivers of critical news sources in case of an emergency.
Automakers say electric vehicles generate more electromagnetic interference than gasoline-powered vehicles, which can interfere with AM signal reception and cause static, noise and high-frequency hum. (FM signals are more immune to this interference.)
“In order to avoid frustrating customers with poor reception and loud noise, we have decided to remove it from vehicles equipped with eDrive technology,” BMW said in a statement, referring to the company that powers its electric cars. system.
teslaAudi, Porsche and Volvo have also removed AM radios from their electric vehicles, and Volkswagen has removed AM radios from its electric SUV ID.4, according to the automakers and the NAA. Ford says the 2023 F-150 Lightning, its popular electric pickup truck, will also ditch AM radio.
Some experts say the reception problem is not insurmountable. Pooja Nair, a communications systems engineer at Xperi Inc., an entertainment technology company that owns HD Radio technology, said electromagnetic interference can be controlled with shielded cables, filters and careful placement of electronics in the vehicle.
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But such a change requires money and effort, and it’s unclear whether automakers are willing to spend more on services for AM radio enthusiasts. The Drive, an automotive news site, has reported on the trendNote that AM radio has fallen out of favor in Europe, so automakers there may see less need to keep it.
If more EVs ditch AM radio, some broadcasters say they risk losing touch with their core audiences.
“It’s been a killer for us because most of our audience is driving in the morning and driving in the afternoon, when people go to and from get off work — if we’re not in their car, we don’t exist,” said Ron JaneOperations Manager, WATV-AM, an adult contemporary television station in Birmingham, Alabama.
Some 47 million Americans listen to AM radio, or about 20 percent of the radio-listening public, according to media tracking firm Nielsen. AM listeners tend to be older than other radio listeners (about a third are over 65), and their AM listening time has increased slightly over the past five years, to more than two hours per day, Nielsen reported.
Although some AM stations have translators that send repeat broadcasts over the FM airwaves, AM signals travel farther and can reach more people. AM stations can also be cheaper to operate than FM stations, allowing some stations to offer programming specific to specific religions, cultures, or other communities.
Brian Winnekins, owner of WRDN in Durand, Wisconsin, which offers seven hours of farm-related programming on AM and FM every weekday, said he has been urging listeners to tell automakers not to ditch AM. , noting that it can affect farmers in remote areas.
“If you can get a car to drive itself,” Mr. Winnekins said, referring to the driver assistance systems in Teslas and other cars, “you can make a decent radio receiver.”
Nola Daves Moses, director of distribution at Native Voice One, distributes Native American radio programming, some in Native languages. She said she hopes more Americans will switch to electric vehicles.
But “if the radio disappeared from the car, it would be devastating,” she said. “Is this the first step? Is FM next?
In a letter to 20 automakers published Dec. 1, Sen. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., asked them to Keep AM Radio in Your Electric Cardescribing it as a public safety concern.
“Despite innovations such as smartphones and social media, AM/FM radio remains the most reliable, free, and convenient communication mechanism for public officials to communicate with the public during an emergency,” Mr. Markey wrote. “Therefore, any phasing out of broadcast AM radio could create serious communication problems during emergencies.”
Many AM broadcasters say their stations’ news coverage is the fastest way for drivers to learn about tornadoes, flash floods and other severe weather. Diane Newman, operations and brand manager for WWL New Orleans, said that during Katrina and other natural disasters, the station carried important messages about relief and recovery efforts.
“There’s no Wi-Fi; there’s no phone connection,” Ms. Newman said, adding, “You take away the AM radio in the car and you take away a lifeline, a connection when the community needs you most.”
Drivers can still play AM radio on the app, the automaker noted, and not all EVs have ditched it. Hyundai, which makes electric vehicles, said in a statement that it has no plans to phase out AM radios. Some observers say the threat of electric vehicles may be overblown.
“The challenge of AM survival may come more from broader demographics than cars,” says Michael Stamm, a cultural historian who studies media at Michigan State University. “Do young people care about AM, whether in cars or otherwise?”
Not all young drivers are turning away from AM radio.
“AM is where you get your information,” said Alex Cardenas-Acosta, a 34-year-old Saab driver who works on AM radios at an auto repair shop in Union City, New Jersey. . Mr. Cardenas-Acosta said he listens to Mets games via transmission.
“I don’t think it should be taken away,” he said. “If you want to find some serious stuff instead of all the bullshit they have on FM, you turn on AM.”
Outside a Tesla dealership in Springfield, New Jersey, several Tesla owners said they weren’t terribly bothered by the lack of an AM radio.The company started phasing it out a few years ago, prompting headlines in 2018 wall street journal“Your Tesla can go from zero to 60 in 2.5 seconds, but can’t pick up AM radio.”
Brandon Utrera, 27, said he didn’t notice that the Tesla Model Y he bought five days earlier didn’t have an AM radio. “The only time I really listened to AM radio was when the Yankees were on,” he said.
Mr Utrera said his parents listened to more than he did, although he could not recall which station. “It’s for the old-timers,” he said.