Former FEMA chiefs warn EV producers are placing security in danger

Essay by Eric Worrall

AM radios are a robust, long-range means for FEMA to transmit federal disaster warnings. But EV manufacturers are removing them because EV motors create radio noise that impedes reception.

Electric car manufacturers are removing AM radios due to safety concerns


Some electric vehicle (EV) manufacturers are scrapping the AM radio from their cars, citing safety concerns. Although conservative talk radio dominates AM radio ratings, it is also considered a critical safety tool because it is one of the primary ways federal, state, and local officials communicate with the public during natural disasters and other emergencies.

According to a Wall Street Journal report, automakers like Ford and Tesla have removed AM radio from their newer EV models, arguing that EV motors are interfering with AM frequencies, creating hum and signal fading.

However, former emergency officials warn that scrapping the AM radio would mean EV drivers could miss important safety warnings.

Seven former Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrators said in a Sunday letter — obtained by WSJ — to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and several congressional committees that the government should seek assurances that automakers will keep AM radio in their vehicles.

FEMA says more than 75 radio stations are equipped with backup communications and generators that allow them to continue broadcasting information to the public in the event of an emergency.

“If this continues, it will pose a serious threat to future disaster preparedness and relief efforts at the local, state and federal levels,” the letter reads.

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AM radios are a critical part of disaster response efforts because they have long range, good penetration through geographic obstacles such as mountain ranges, and unlike other technologies such as FM and cellular, are not limited by lines of sight. In the event of a disaster such as a major earthquake or a powerful tornado that destroys local radio stations and cell towers across a large geographic area, strong distress calls from other states could still reach AM radio users in the affected areas.

However, AM signals are very sensitive to electrical noise.

What could electric vehicle manufacturers do to alleviate the problem? The obvious solution to radio interference, as any electronics hobbyist would know, is to better shield EV motors and other electrically noisy components and add better electronic noise cancellers. But that would cost a few bucks and could add weight and slightly decrease motor efficiency.

There’s another reason why electric vehicle manufacturers should take electromagnetic emissions seriously. Some studies suggest that continuous exposure to electromagnetic radiation can have serious health effects. I doubt the dip in EMF radiation that appears to be penetrating electric vehicles is enough to affect health, but since we’re already exposed to EMF from devices like laptops and cell phones, why risk injecting even more radiation into our lives bring?

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