In a future filled with electric cars, AM radio may be left behind

For nearly 100 years, drivers have been listening to AM radio, an American institution with a selection of news, traffic, weather, sports and more.

But that dashboard staple could go the way of manual-crank windows and car ashtrays as electric vehicles begin to take over more of the U.S. market.

A growing number of electric models have ditched AM radio, in what broadcasters call a worrisome change that could cause problems for stations and deprive operators of important messages during emergencies.

Carmakers say electric vehicles generate more electromagnetic interference than gas-powered cars, which can disrupt reception of AM signals and cause static, noise and high-frequency sound. (FM signals are more resistant to such interference.)

“Rather than disappoint customers with low reception and noise, it was decided to leave it out of vehicles with eDrive technology,” BMW said in a statement, referring to the system that drives its electric vehicles.

Tesla, Audi, Porsche and Volvo have also removed AM radio from their electric vehicles, and Volkswagen has removed it from its electric SUV, the ID.4, according to the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers and Broadcasters. Ford 2023 F-150 Lightning, its popular Electric pickup truckAlso ditch AM radio.

Some experts say reception problems are insurmountable. Electromagnetic interference can be controlled by careful placement of cables, filters and in-vehicle electrical components, said Pooja Nair, a communications systems engineer at Experi Inc., an entertainment technology company that owns HD Radio Technology.

But such changes require money and effort, and it’s unclear whether automakers are willing to spend more to service AM radio fans. The Drive, car news site Reported on the trendHe noted that AM radio was losing favor in Europe, so carmakers there would have less need to keep it.

If more electric vehicles abandon AM radio, some broadcasters say they could lose touch with their core listeners.

“It’s a killer for us because most of our listening audience is on morning drives and afternoon drives, when people are going to and from work — if we’re not in their car, we’re not,” he said. Ron JanuaryOperations Manager at WATV-AM, an adult contemporary station in Birmingham, Ala.

About 47 million Americans listen to AM radio, representing 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 the amount of time they spend listening to AM has increased slightly over the past five years, to more than two hours a day, according to Nielsen.

Although some AM stations have translators that transmit duplicate broadcasts on FM frequencies, AM signals travel farther and reach more people. AM stations cost less to operate than FM stations, allowing them to offer programming geared toward certain religious, cultural, or other communities.

Brian Winnekins, owner of WRDN in Durand, Wis., which has seven hours of farm-related programming each week on AM and FM, said he’s urging carmakers not to drop AM listeners, noting it reaches farmers. In remote areas.

“If you can make a vehicle drive itself, you can make a decent radio receiver,” he said, referring to driver-assistance systems in Teslas and other vehicles.

Nola Dawes Moses, director of distribution for Native Voice One, a company that distributes Native American radio programs, said she hopes more Americans will switch to electric vehicles.

But “if radios disappear from cars, it can be really devastating,” he said. “Is this the first step? Is FM next?”

In a letter to 20 car manufacturers published on December 1, Senator Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts Democrat Have an AM radio in electric vehiclesIt describes it as a public safety issue.

“Despite innovations like the smartphone and social media, AM/FM broadcast radio remains the most reliable, cost-effective and accessible means of communication for public officials to communicate with the public during emergencies,” said Mr. Margie wrote. “As a result, any degradation of AM radio could cause a significant communication problem during emergencies.”

Many AM broadcasters say their stations’ news reports are a quick way for drivers to find out about tornadoes, flash floods and other severe weather. During Hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters, the station carried critical information about recovery and recovery efforts, said Diane Newman, WWL’s operations and brand manager in New Orleans.

“No Wi-Fi; There were no telephone lines,” Ms. Newman said. “You carry AM radios in cars, and you carry a lifeline when the community needs you the most.”

Carmakers have noted that drivers can still stream AM radio in apps and that not all electric vehicles have abandoned it. Electric vehicle maker Hyundai said in a statement that it has no plans to phase out AM radio. And some observers say the threat of electric vehicles may be greater.

“AM’s challenge to survival may be about a broader demographic than autos,” said Michael Stamm, a cultural historian at Michigan State University who studies media. “Do young people care about AM, in cars or something else?”

Not all young drivers have moved away from AM radio.

“AM is where you get information,” said Alex Cardenas-Acosta, 34, a Saab driver who works at an auto repair shop in Union, NJ. Like many people who drive gas-powered cars, he doesn’t know that some electric vehicles have fallen by the wayside. AM radio. Mr. Cardenas-Acosta said he was listening to the Mets on the transmission.

“I don’t think it should be taken away,” he said. “If you want to find something serious, instead of all the crap they have on FM, you turn on AM.”

Outside a Tesla dealership in Springfield, NJ, several Tesla owners said they weren’t too bothered by the lack of an AM radio. The company began phasing it out several years ago, prompting 2018’s headline The Wall Street Journal“Your Tesla can go from zero to 60 in 2.5 seconds but can’t get AM radio.”

Brandon Utrera, 27, said he didn’t notice the Tesla Model Y he bought five days ago didn’t have an AM radio. “The only time I really listen to AM radio is when the Yankees are on,” he said.

Mr. Utrera, though he doesn’t remember the station, said his parents listen to it more than him. “It’s for the old-timers,” he said.

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