Question: Has BMW Started A Trend by Silencing AM Radio In The New i3 EV (Electric Vehicle)?


Being called a revolutionary vehicle, the BMW i3 lacks a simple AM radio feature. A carbon-fiber reinforced plastic shell riding on an aluminum platform is blamed for the less-than optimal standards resulting in disabling of the AM radio in this BMW model.

After spending close to $40,000 on the most energy efficient car sold in the U.S. this year, some owners are just now discovering their new investment does not offer AM radio. Media inside cars is changing at an amazing pace, some calling it a revolution, with AM radio and cd players being replaced by smartphones with USB cable connections, HD radio, and hard drives for storage.

Tim Nixon, Chief Technology Officer for General Motors, was asked about BMW’s silencing of the AM radio on the iE3, during a Connected Car Conference, and he replied “I listen to AM”, and replacing it would be difficult, unless “something can replace it in an equivalent way”. It is up to a personal choice now whether new technology can represent the AM band in an adequate way.

Most of the hybrid and electric cars in the industry as well as the last two electric cars BMW has released, the BMW ActiveE and the MINI E, include the AM radio without problems with EMI interference. The company determined that the carbon-fiber reinforced plastic body shell was most likely the cause of the electromagnetic interference, but is not completely convinced why this model specifically is having such extreme issues as to warrant the silencing of the AM radio.

“AM is not offered due to negative performance influences of the electromagnetic interference of the electric drivetrain…” Rebecca K. Kiehne, a BMW spokesperson, said.

Some iE3 owners have taken it upon themselves to re-code their vehicles, modifying the software to engage the AM radio system. This re-coding most likely will void warrantees so it is not recommended, however multiple sources provide detailed instructions (and amply warnings) to aide in the coding process of the software. Of the owners who have modified their cars, most report the AM radio works acceptably, with only a sparse amount experiencing minor interference.

The BMW iE3 does offer a navigation system, an iDrive electronics interface with a 6.5-inch screen, a Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a sound system that includes a USB audio interface, a DC fast-charging port, a satellite/HD radio, and an auxiliary audio jack. It does not however offer a cd player, which is among many new models in the car industry to leave this feature behind. It is estimated by Strategy Analytics that 1.405 million cars will ship in North America without a CD player.

Article: “HCT America”
Editor: “Amy Jones”
Image: “BMW”