Everyone knows electric vehicles are silent. But did you know they are also silencing something?
AM radio is something you can’t hear in a number of new EVs — including Teslas and the 2023 Ford Lightning, the electric version of the popular F-150 pickup truck. The same is true for Ford’s Mach-E “Mustang,” the automaker’s first mass-market electric crossover SUV.
These EVs aren’t equipped to receive AM signals.
The reason for that has to do with EV “emissions” — of electromagnetic interference — generated by an EV’s high-voltage battery pack and motors. If not adequately shielded, these emissions can make AM broadcasts, which operate on the same wavelengths, sound terrible — prompting customer complaints.
Solution? Delete AM from the dial.
It’s a novel way to deal with a problem — like shutting off the water to the bathroom to deal with a leaking toilet you can no longer use.
But does anyone still listen to AM? You might be surprised.
It is estimated that 47 million people tune in — and not just because the signal-carrying power of AM radio reaches “coast to coast,” a reference to the famous late-night broadcasts of Art Bell that one could listen to for hours, driving across the Nevada and New Mexico deserts when there was almost nothing else on the dial.
AM is also beloved by sports fans for live/real-time game coverage.
It also serves as the medium for transmitting alerts about dangerous weather, natural disasters, and other emergencies to people who might not otherwise be aware — because FM doesn’t reach as far.
And because it can reach people who might not be listening to FM.
Many AM stations also have special equipment designed specifically for emergency broadcasts that other broadcast mediums lack — as well as backup generators to ensure they can continue to broadcast even if grid power is offline.
The Wall Street Journal published a piece the other day about a letter sent to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, signed by several former Federal Emergency Management Agency administrators from the Clinton to the Trump administrations, which expressed concern about the implications of deleting AM from the dial.
“When all else fails, AM radio stations are often the last line of communication that communities have,” said former FEMA head Craig Fugate.
But you can’t hear what your EV can’t receive.
Even though you paid a lot to not hear it.
The least expensive Tesla, the Model 3, stickers for $44,380. A 2023 Ford Lightning stickers for $57,869.
The 2023 Mach-E starts at $47,495.
That’s a lot of money to pay to not get what used to come standard in the lowliest Yugo or Chevette. It’s almost like floor mats or a heater not being included. It’s also something else, given the fact that — unlike a Yugo or Chevette — electric cars and their owners are uniquely vulnerable to weather emergencies, including very cold weather, which can dramatically reduce an EV’s range by 50 percent — as many EV owners found out about during the cold snap back in December.
Most of them don’t come standard with much range, either.
The $44,380 Tesla 3, for example, has a best-case range of only 272 miles, and the $57,869 Ford Lightning has only 240 miles of best-case range. In italics to emphasize the fact that the actual distance any EV will go depends on a number of factors the owner cannot control — such as the weather. Back in December, many EV owners discovered that they didn’t have enough range to make it home — or get away, as in the case of the hurricane that passed over Florida last year.
That could be deadly, if you aren’t ready.
Or aware — because your EV can’t receive.
Meanwhile, we’re all paying for EVs — and “electrification” — most recently via the Biden administration’s so-called Inflation Reduction Act, which reboots the tax rebates for EV buyers that have helped prop up Tesla (which only sells EVs) especially. Without the subsidies, it is probable Tesla would have gone the way of DeLorean years ago.
But all manufacturers of EVs have benefitted from the tens of billions of dollars sluiced their way via the government to promote EVs and related infrastructure, including public “fast” charging stations.
It calls to mind the old saying about he who pays the piper calls the tune.
Only in this case, the people paying literally can’t tune in.
Well, if they paid for a new Tesla or Ford EV.
Maybe the government that’s helping pay for that should ask Tesla and Ford about that.
Other EVs, such as those made by GM, Hyundai, and Toyota, can receive AM broadcasts. Those manufacturers have not deleted AM receivers to avoid customer complaints about poor reception. They have apparently figured out how to fix the leaking toilet by not shutting off the water.
That’s the way you fix a problem — as opposed to hiding it.
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