One of the most technologically advanced cars in the U.S., the BMW i3, doesn’t offer the old school AM radio. Those of you that still rely on local traffic reports or other local news, your luck has run out.

The lack of AM waves in your i3 has been documented before, but very few have looked at the root cause. GreenCarReports reached out to BMW of North America for an explanation:

“AM is not offered due to negative performance influences of the electromagnetic interference of the electric drivetrain,” said Rebecca K. Kiehne, a BMW product and technical communications spokesperson. “Electric motors cause interference on AM which is why BMW decided to remove this option. While it could be offered, BMW’s performance standards are very high and we don’t offer a product that meets less than those high standards,” Kiehne added.


BMW spokesman Dave Buchko also commented on the issue last year:

“We learned from our experience with MINI E and BMW ActiveE that the electric motor causes interference with the AM signal. Rather than frustrate customers with inferior reception, the decision was made to leave it off. HD Radio is standard on the i3 and through multi-casting, many traditional AM stations in key markets are available on secondary and tertiary HD signals.”

BMW refrained from offering more details on this issue, but what we do know is that the software layer in the i3 does offer the AM option, and some tech savvy owners have already tinkered with the feature – which we strongly suspect may void some or all of the warranty.

AM Radio

To enable AM radio


Werte=01 – Enable AM Radio

Werte=00 – Default (AM Radio disabled)

Apparently this geeky sequence of code will allow the AM functionality.

Interesting enough is that BMW’s two prior electric-car test fleets managed to incorporate AM radio: It was a standard fitting in both the MINI E and the BMW ActiveE.

But turns out the feature might not work that great in the end. “Depending on where you live,” an i3 owner says, “the reception can be very bad due to interference from the electric drive electronics.”

“From what I got out of BMW, the interference was unacceptable for them and they felt their customers would be complaining about it,” he said.

Other owners have said the AM radio largely works fine.

So hopefully now you’re more informed before taking that trip down to your local BMW dealership.