AAA mobile chargers tackle EV range anxiety

Motor club AAA says its roadside assistance trucks will be able to recharge electric vehicle batteries when depleted.

AAA today announced roadside assistance for electric vehicles, addressing an industry-wide concern over the limited range of all-electric cars.

The motor club unveiled its AAA Roadside Assistance service for EVs at the Plug-In 2011 electric vehicle conference, saying that six metropolitan areas will each pilot-test a truck starting this summer. The intent is to give drivers a limited amount of drive time to get them out of a jam and to a charging station, according to AAA.

Juice on the go: AAA's mobile charger for EV batteries will provide between 3 and 15 miles of driving range.
Juice on the go: AAA's mobile charger for EV batteries will provide between 3 and 15 miles of driving range. AAA

The mobile chargers will be Level 2 and Level 3 chargers, which means they operate faster than a normal household outlet. Ten to 15 minutes of charge time will give between 3 to 15 miles of driving range, according to AAA.

AAA is experimenting with different technologies to see which best address the problem of depleted car batteries in different areas. One truck shown at the conference has a removable lithium ion battery pack, while other roadside assistance trucks will have generators that run on liquid fuels.

Because it has seen strong demand for EV roadside charging, AAA expects to roll out the service across the country after the initial pilot program. The first regions, which have invested in a public charging station infrastructure, are Seattle; the San Francisco Bay Area; Los Angeles; Knoxville, Tenn.; the Tampa Bay Area; and Portland, Ore.

"While these six areas are part of the initial pilot program, we've had tremendous interest from AAA clubs across the country to offer this service to their members, and we anticipate expanding the program to additional areas in the months following initial deployment," said John Nielsen, AAA director of auto repair, buying services, and consumer information.

There have been roadside assistance programs introduced in other countries already, but AAA said this is the first to be available in North America. For prospective EV drivers, public charging stations and roadside assistance programs are part of the infrastructure that can make electric cars more convenient and attractive. The Nissan Leaf, which runs on battery power alone, has a driving range of about 80 to 100 miles depending on conditions.

 

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