Why you can’t get AM Radio in your BMW i3

BMW i | July 9th, 2015 by 18
BMW i3 Radio 750x500

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 …

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 i3 am radio

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.

18 responses to “Why you can’t get AM Radio in your BMW i3”

  1. jason bourne says:

    “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.”

    Void the warranty??? Really??

    How incredibly idiotic.

  2. CDspeed says:

    Actually I wonder if BMW dealers could do it, and not effect the warranty. Before BMW had LED running lights that looked good, some came with daytime running lights, I hated how it looked like my headlights were on. So upon delivery I always had the dealer disable them, what they did was turn them off though the car’s software from their service computers. They could also set the locks to lock automatically after 9 MPH, before iDrive that’s what you had to do to make changes, have your dealer tweak the programming.

    • Mike Vella says:

      Who cares if it looks like your lights were on? They were on – because safety.
      That’s lame.

      • CDspeed says:

        It also kept them from burning out faster, I’d rather have them work at night. But that was old halogen lights, now LED daytime running lights are part of the design, and last longer.

        • Mike Vella says:

          I’ve had 4 cars with daytime running lights and none of them failed in the average 5+ years we had the cars.
          The only failed light I remember is a tail light bulb in my wife’s GTI.

  3. steven75 says:

    I consider lack of AM a feature. I’m not even joking.

  4. Kagan Oztrak says:

    the last time AM radio was listened to was in world war II.

    • Electron-15 says:

      Get a grip on reality. If your listening to AM radio, you should be driving a 1959 Edsel. What can possibly make anyone want to listen to the wretched sound and content on that antiquated system. Use the Satellite radio or FM if you must listen to radio. C’mon don’t get upset, jump into the future. I’m thrilled the i3 doesn’t have AM radio!

  5. William C Bonner says:

    The state of Washington has highway alerts running on local am stations. they vary between running at 530 or 1610, but when I see the sign with the flashing yellow lights, I usually flip my radio to AM to hear what the warning is about. Since I don’t use AM for anything else, it makes it easy to keep the presets for the right stations.

    • Electron-15 says:

      The Nav system in the i3 will alert you to traffic isses and there are smartphone apps to do the same. you don’t REALLY need AM radio, you’re just used to it. Look you have a very modern automobile here, why spoil the experience with noisy ‘old’ sounding AM radio.

      • William C Bonner says:

        I don’t have an i3. I’ve got a 2002 x5 that I bought new and use for longer trips such as driving into the mountains to go skiing. I generally only drive on weekends and commute on foot or by bus during the week.

        I test drove an i3 when they were doing the presales tour and liked it, but my usage patterns don’t justify paying for a new car.

      • William C Bonner says:

        I don’t have an i3. Will the navy system alert you with the same information that is being broadcast via am radio, including the winter weather advisories?

        • Electron-15 says:

          I don’t listen to AM radio, and there are no winter advisories in Florida here. It does alert you to traffic issues.

          Also UPDATE: the lease was up on my 2014 i3 so I got a 2017 with the 94ah battery. I can easily get 140 miles of range without breaking a sweat. I got as high as 153, but that was in 40 minutes of traffic going 13 mph (LOL)

          As I haven’t driven a Bolt I have no say in the comparison, however test drive an i3 an dyou might just like it.

  6. Grandinquisitor1 says:

    I am an AM radio junkie. Currently lease a Porsche. Was intrigued with the i8. NOT ANYMORE.

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