Will electric cars kill AM radio?

  • The AM band in particular is subject to electromagnetic interference from electric motors, which generate frequencies similar in wavelength to AM radio signals.
  • Many electric vehicles have given up radio range, while others—like the Ford F-150 Lightning—have incorporated it, but it will soon be discontinued.
  • A global radio aggregator and streaming service called TuneIn offers a solution, by providing feeds from around 100,000 stations via access to the vehicle’s 5G wireless network.

    Is radio broadcasting an endangered species in the new generation of electric vehicles? The AM range in particular is subject to electrical interference, which is one reason the BMW i3 electric car refused to include it back in 2014. Apparently, Tesla ditched ground-based AM in the Model S circa 2018, and it’s not available in the current Tesla. The Mercedes-Benz EQS EV does not have a regular AM broadcast, and both Volvo and Audi have produced electric cars without AM. The interference problem could get worse because EVs carry larger electric motors.

    For most of the past 100 years, “in-car entertainment” (if your car has an “R&H” or radio and heater) has been provided by just one selection – the full suite of AM broadcasts. In the 1960s, FM became an option, and then the long march by adding eight-track, cassette tape, CD, and phone-based music.

    Recently, radio broadcasting is seeing a small single-digit decline in listenership, said Eric Rhodes, president of Streamline Publishing, which covers the industry through Radio Ink. Obviously, a lot of radio listening takes place in the car today, but Rhodes said that hasn’t stopped car companies from predicting that AM and FM broadcasts will eventually disappear from the auto dashboard. Radio’s demise has been predicted many times over, but even today, 86 percent of respondents to a Jacobs Media survey said they listen to radio (on any device) for at least an hour a day.

    Car companies are considering deep radio for the same reason they forgo the CD player—it costs money and takes up space and resources on your valuable digital dashboard.

    And the overlap problem is real. According to the Consumer Manual, electric motors in electric vehicles “tend to generate electromagnetic interference with AM radio… The rapidly oscillating voltage produces high-level, low-frequency electromagnetic interference that reaches the radio. The electromagnetic frequencies generated by EV motors happen to be comparable in length The waveform of AM radio signals… Porsche, for example, has advised that such interference may result in static and crackling sounds. Other automakers cite such potential audio nuisances as distortion, buzzing, and signal fading.”

    BMW does not offer AM in the i4, iX and i7 electric cars, said Alexander Schmock, spokesman for BMW Products and Technology. “We offer FM, HD Radio and Sirius XM Satellite as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. If a customer wants to listen to an AM radio station, they can choose to do so via services like TuneIn and connect/play it directly via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto through a speaker system.” the sound in the car,” Schmuck said.

    The Ford F-150 Lightning has AM available, but it won’t last long.

    Some automakers are putting AM in electric vehicles, including Ford with its Mustang Mach-E and several General Motors vehicles (Chevy Bolt EUV, Hummer EV).

    Ford F-150 Lightning Electric Truck It was It’s going away, says Emma Berg, a spokeswoman for Ford’s electric vehicle company. “Although AM is present on our electric vehicles, it has already been removed for Lightning. Most AM stations are already available through streaming services.” “Amplitude Modulation”—the definition of AM in this case—is what we’re getting rid of on the F-150 Lightning. The frequencies included in AM radio tend to be directly affected by electromagnetic noise in electric vehicle propulsion systems. It takes additional investment to get AM to work in an EV, and quality can also be compromised.”

    “It takes additional investment to get AM to work in an EV, and quality can also be compromised.”

    In general, though, AM remains more favorable with US automakers—in part because it still has a US-based listener base. AM broadcasting is declining in Europe, and is being replaced by the digital DAB format.

    One solution to the interference problem is terrestrial radio access through the 5G signal in most new cars, and that niche is occupied by TuneIn, a global radio aggregator and streaming service that delivers music, news, sports and podcasts to an audience of 75 million monthly users.

    in car week In an interview, Rich Stern, CEO of TuneIn, said the service includes 100,000 radio stations, plus oddities such as audio from Risk and other tv feeds. This is one way for TV sports junkies who don’t pay for the franchise to get game coverage. “Radio is still a vibrant medium,” said Stern. “The average listener tunes in 4.5 hours a day, and that blows Netflix out of the water.”

    Radio was restricted to the range of its broadcast signals – to people “within the sound of my voice”. But that roadblock is over on Tunein’s service—you can listen to country music on a Nashville station, or hip-hop from Detroit. AM also had audio limitations (which is one of the reasons we don’t offer music anymore), but taking it off the streaming platform eliminates static and fidelity problems.

    Fresh air

    All North American Lucid Airs have both AM and FM, but they also come with TuneIn and other streaming service apps.
    Lucid Motors

    TuneIn has a similar tiered approach to services like Spotify — free with ads, ads limited to a one-time fee, and no ads via a premium subscription (which also includes live MLB and NHL games). Automakers that have partnered with TuneIn include Jaguar-Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz, Stellantis, Rivian, Lucid, and Tesla. The latter three exclusively make EVs, but every automaker now offers them. Adding TuneIn doesn’t necessarily mean dropping regular broadcast reception.

    According to Dave Buchko, a spokesperson for Lucid, “We don’t use TuneIn in place of broadcast radio. All Lucid Airs in North America have both AM and FM. We have the TuneIn app as well as IHeartRadio as additional streaming options. We also have Spotify and Tidal.” We recently announced a partnership with SiriusXM, which we’ll add through an over-the-air update soon. Because sound is such an integral part of the in-car experience, especially on road trips, we’ll continue to explore ways to improve that experience.”

    Stern said that TuneIn’s goal is to “take radio up a notch, make it global and as smart as satellite. At TuneIn, we believe in the long tail.” Sure, Sirius XM cut AM/FM listeners in, but not fatally. Designed for larger, tablet-style infotainment screens, TuneIn’s interface allows users to search by genre, country, and language. The platform relies on ads, but Stern said the full range of non-commercial radio is offered as a public service.

    Do Music Artists Get Paid From TuneIn? Yes, in the same way that they are paid via regular radio broadcasts, via payments to music publishers. “The good news is that we’re building on a century-old radio model,” Stern said.

    There are other radio aggregators, and individual stations offer downloadable apps that let you listen anywhere. Free Radio Player Live for Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge gives access to hundreds of stations with music, sports, news and talk. Radio.net is another site. AM broadcasts are also available via Internet streaming and simulcast on HD FM.

    “AM has to think digital to live,” said Adam Jacobson, editor-in-chief of Business Report Radio & Television.

    Stern said his father-in-law, Joel Stern, had long relied on his home audience when he was on the air with the Great American Songs program at WMOR supporting the app in Provincetown, Massachusetts. “When he found out he had listeners all over the world, that completely changed his perspective,” said Stern.

    TuneIn’s revenue stream is via advertising. In 2020, the company switched to Google and adopted Ad Manager Audio for programmatic advertising.

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    Do you miss AM radio If it is not available in your car? Is it enough to pay for a subscription to a streaming service to get it? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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