Report Claims AM Radio Will Cost EV Makers $3.8B By 2030


    “Not required for public safety. Not popular with consumers. And now we know: not cheap.” That is the description of the AM band given by Alliance for Automotive Innovation President John Bozzella in a November 6 blog post as the automotive industry brings its heavy guns to bear on radio.

    The focus of Bozzella’s post is a recent study by the Center for Automotive Research that projects keeping AM radio functional in new electric vehicles might incur costs of up to $3.8 billion between now and the end of 2030 for automakers. EV manufacturers have been phasing out AM, under the guise that the electromagnetic interference caused by EV batteries and propulsion is too much for a listenable signal.

    The study describes the existing solutions for canceling electromagnetic interference, which all cars have required since the advent of AM in autos, like shielding cables, adding interference filters, active noise cancellation, and careful component placement. Cost estimates for shielding range between $35 to $50 per vehicle, while filtering could add $15 to $20 per vehicle, according to one manufacturer’s assessment.

    The report calls for the omission of analog AM radio in favor of digital AM and FM, streaming, and satellite, which would hold more financial benefits for automakers – and not just due to EMI mitigation.

    EMI Mitigation Cost
    (Center For Automotive Research)

    SiriusXM already splits revenue with automakers. As for streaming audio, there have been the beginnings of significant shifts in the industry from phone-based streaming to subscription-based in-dash audio streaming apps, funneling monthly sums to manufacturers. OTA radio remains the only truly free entertainment and information constant in cars.

    Besides the cost, Bozzella, a former Public Policy VP for Chrysler, goes on to attack AM as irrelevant in an emergency, referencing a paywalled Consumer Technology Association survey saying 95% of adults received the October FEMA/FCC nationwide EAS Test via their phones, while 15% and 1% got the alert on FM and AM, respectively.

    While Bozzella’s argument works in a vacuum, real life disasters from hurricanes to the recent Maui wildfires have proved cell and data signals fail, phone batteries die, and residents turn to radio in an actual emergency. Where do they typically get that radio? From their vehicle.

    This new push comes as automakers are reacting to the legislative pinch they find themselves in as the AM For Every Vehicle Act closes in on victory. According to the latest lobbying disclosures, General Motors spent $2.45 million on lobbying from July to September – the most the company has spent on Capitol Hill in Q3 since 2010. GM was the 16th highest corporate spender this past quarter, coming in above Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, and Northrop Grumman. The filings show a portion of that massive sum specifically went toward radio-based influence.

    With limited time left on the 2023 legislative calendar, radio and its allies will need to remain focused on the AM For Every Vehicle Act’s passage as the band’s future in the dashboard remains at risk.


    1. Digital modulation of AM radio stations will still need to be protected from RFI generated by the vehicle’s power electronics regardless. The technical truth is the AM band’s frequencies are closer to the switching rate of vehicle power electronics than the FM band, cellular or SHF satellite bands. And if you think this modern electronics pollution is only a vehicle AM radio issue ask any amateur radio operator about today’s noise floor in the ham bands. The FCC has been very lax at policing the airwaves for all users by encouraging new technologies at the cost of traditional interference standards.

    2. If the average cost per vehicle is $50, and the total costs through the end of 2030 is $3.8-billion, then they expect to manufacture 76-million cars during that time period. US automakers made over 11-million cars in 2018 (pre-covid), and over 10-million cars last year. Considering that the average age of autos increased during Covid it seems that there may be some pent-up demand for new cars on the horizon. $50 added to the cost of a $30,000 automobile seems pretty insignificant. What manufacturers really want is the ability to get revenue from their entertainment systems, something that digital streams allow them to track. They care NOTHING about safety or providing emergency communications.

    3. and if the fcc actually enforced interference rules the car companies would still have to include the shielding to prevent interference to other vehicles on the road.


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