Automakers Are Dropping AM Radio From EVs. That Could Be Disastrous in Emergencies

More than 90% of people living in the U.S. can be reached via AM radio now, but that could change if more automakers drop the band.

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Automakers Are Dropping AM Radio From EVs. That Could Be Disastrous in Emergencies © Automakers Are Dropping AM Radio From EVs. That Could Be Disastrous in Emergencies

Several former federal emergency officials have written to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg warning of the potential consequences of AM radio's discontinuation in new cars. They advise that by dropping the radios, drivers could be unreachable during times of local or national crisis.

New cars, particularly electric vehicles, have begun to phase out AM radio receivers over the last decade or so. As of last summer, those abandoning the technology mostly encompassed European makes, which cited compromised audio quality as the reason for AM's elimination. (It's likely that may have been caused by radio listening habits in Europe.)

With the launch of the 2023 Ford F-150 Lightning however, Ford reportedly axed the AM band from its radio. We reached out to Ford for comment, but haven't yet heard back. That could put owners of new vehicles at risk of missing emergency broadcasts, former emergency officials say.

On Sunday, seven former Federal Emergency Management Agency administrators sent a letter to Buttigieg expressing concern over the AM radios being excluded from EVs, according to The Wall Street Journal. Because of AM's low cost and long range, more than 90% of people in the U.S. are reportedly reachable by just 75 AM stations equipped with backup communications and generators. They can broadcast through just about anything, but the former officials are now worried that citizens may one day be unable to receive the broadcasts.

"Should this continue, it will represent a grave threat to future local, state, and federal disaster response and relief efforts," the letter warns.

"When all else fails, radio stations are often the last line of communications that communities have," added Craig Fugate, head of FEMA under President Obama and one of the letter's signatories.

"AM radio has been tested over and over during the most devastating natural disasters—and has withstood them all," added Antwane Johnson, a current FEMA official.

2022 BMW i4, an EV without an AM receiver. <em>BMW</em>
2022 BMW i4, an EV without an AM receiver. BMW

AM radios aren't on the verge of extinction however, as plenty of EVs still include them as standard equipment—the Hyundai Ioniq 5, Toyota BZ4X, and Chevy Bolt. The format also retains an audience of 47 million nationwide according to Nielsen, and it remains a must for many new car buyers.

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