Dispelling the Myths About AM Radio and EVs
As vehicle design evolves, new capabilities continuously emerge to provide drivers and passengers with the latest technological innovations and the best possible experience.
All vehicles on the road today have access to AM radio programming—the only difference is that some newer vehicles provide access to AM programming via more modern communication technologies.
In electric vehicles (EVs), traditional AM radio frequencies present a major technological challenge. Modern-day technologies, such as safety sensors and even cell phones, can also create interference with analog AM radio signals, at times making broadcasts completely unintelligible.
A study by the National Association of Broadcasters and Xperi showed that even with high levels of padding around analog AM radio receivers in EVs, significant levels of audio distortion will impact broadcasts.
The AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act
Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) introduced the AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act of 2023 (S.1669/H.R. 3413), which would direct federal regulators to require that automakers maintain analog AM radio receivers in new vehicles, both immediately and indefinitely.
ZETA joins the Alliance for Automotive Innovation and the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) in strongly opposing the AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act as proposed. Below, our coalition addresses misperceptions about EVs and AM radio:
AM Radio MYTHS VS. FACTS
Dispelling the Misinformation on the AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act of 2023 (S. 1669 / H.R. 3413)
Americans are heavily reliant on AM radio
- AM radio listenership has been trending downward for decades, as noted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
This mandate is necessary to maintain public safety.
- Americans receive Integrated Public Alert & Warning System (IPAWS) communications through several sources beyond analog AM radio. IPAWS includes maximum redundancies over multiple mediums, including digital and analog AM and FM radio, internet-based radio, satellite radio, and cellular networks.
- Analog AM radio is only one layer of IPAWS and is not the dominant source of emergency alert communications for Americans.
- CTA’s survey following the October 2023 nationwide emergency alert system test demonstrated that 95% of Americans received the alert via phone. Only 1% received it via AM radio.
- The FCC has acknowledged the importance of other technologies. In a 2022 release outlining improvements to the national emergency alert service, the FCC identified efforts to focus on internet-based emergency alerts rather than analog, legacy versions.
- According to the FCC, these internet-based alerts “will produce higher-quality audio messages, improve the availability of multilingual alerts, and ensure that more of the alerts displayed on television screens contain all of the information provided by the government.”
The mandate will NOT dramatically harm American automakers.
- Automakers will be forced to undertake costly redesigns to standards not currently defined in the legislation. Manufacturers will suffer billions in losses, and small businesses in the industry will experience the most strain.
The required redesigns of this mandate are easy to comply with and not overly burdensome.
- There are insurmountable technical challenges associated with placing an AM radio receiver inside an EV. The drivetrain technology and other electronics emit radio waves that severely interfere with traditional AM signals, generating static and making the radio unintelligible. This remains the case even with a complete vehicle redesign and the addition of shielding to mitigate interference.
The mandate will NOT impede American innovation.
- The mandate discourages American ingenuity and poses a serious threat to innovation.
- Congress has never mandated a communications technology before, and it has certainly never mandated a technology without any sort of sunset provision.
- The AM radio mandate would force an innovative sector to use comparatively outdated technology in its vehicle.
- The mandate would also negatively impact critical aspects of the driving experience without providing any tangible benefits. For example, some drivers can expect reduced range due to the additional weight of the AM radio receiver and associated shielding.
The mandate supports FEMA’s public safety mission.
- The IPAWS Modernization Act of 2015 directed IPAWS to adapt to and incorporate future technologies for communicating directly with the public, provide alerts to the largest portion of the affected population feasible, and improve the ability of remote areas to receive alerts. Forcing continued reliance on outdated technologies would directly conflict with the bill’s legislative intent.
The mandate will improve access to AM radio programming and combat alleged censorship.
- The assertion that AM radio is going away—and that increased EV adoption is to blame—is untrue.
- Although AM radio listenership has been trending downwards for decades, EV drivers all have superior access to AM programming via digital and satellite services that allow access to national AM radio programming, not just the stations that are within a receiver’s range.
- Listeners of this free service also receive the same ads as local listeners, regardless of where they are located. By including AM streaming in EVs, the industry is expanding access to AM radio throughout the country, including to minority-owned stations.