AAA Unveils Roadside EV Quick-Charging Truck in Seattle

By · March 27, 2013

AAA Mobile Charging Truck

If you are a range-anxious electric vehicle owner in the Seattle area, then perhaps it's time to switch your insurance to AAA.

The American Automobile Association (AAA) last week deployed its first Level 3 roadside charging truck in Seattle. As reported in August 2011, AAA’s John Nielsen proposed this service in 2009, and initiated a one-year pilot beginning in 2011. Seattle is now one of six metropolitan areas to get one of AAA’s electric vehicle charging trucks, along with Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Knoxville, and Orlando.

Given relatively well-built public EV charging infrastructure in Seattle, it's likely that a stranded EV in the Seattle will require no more than about 15 miles of range to reach the nearest charging station. AAA said the typical emergency charge would last less than 10 minutes, and provide about 3 to 5 miles of range. This service is free to AAA members.

Nielsen only expects that AAA in Seattle will receive about 20 calls a year. The charge-enabled trucks will otherwise perform standard daily roadside assistance for gas-powered cars.

Janice Connolly, a Nissan LEAF driver from Mercer Island, was the first to use the truck. “It buys a lot of security, because they can get you off the highway and on the road,” she said.


· · 5 years ago

No details other than the picture?

· · 5 years ago

This is great, I hope it expands!

I too would like more details - I assume it's based on a gasoline generator on board the truck? What is the power output? Also, any insight on how much this costs to deploy? If it's too expensive, it will never expand. On the other hand, if it's cheap enough, AAA (and other local roadside assistance shops) can eventually offer this service everywhere.

· · 5 years ago

It's nice to see AAA isn't content to wait to provide service for EVs.

· · 5 years ago

Cool idea. But I hope that charge doesn't come from the onboard diesel generator....

· · 5 years ago

Alas, it does, MMF. There really isn't any other practical way to get this sort of concentrated power to a remote location. One would hope those generators would be running on biodiesel one day, but I'm guessing that hasn't happened yet. Fortunately, it's an emergency service and the typical EV owner would only have to use this on the rarest of occasions.

We have the AAA EV road service down here in southern Arizona, as well as a competitor of theirs, EV Mobile Charger. When I filed my radio feature last December on the installation of the first Level 3 EVSE at Picacho Peak (one of several that will be dotted along the I-10 stretch between Tucson and Phoenix,) I made mention of these roadside emergency services. The din of their generators was such that almost all my audio interview clips contained it in the background and it made sense to get their comments as part of the report . . .

· · 5 years ago

You would think AAA would get a VIA truck with the power export package and then charge the Leaf battery with the Via battery. Do AAA trucks drive more than 50 miles per shift?

· · 5 years ago

Interesting point, Bill. But would a current generation VIA truck have enough battery power on board to recharge a stranded EV as described and not strand itself?

· · 5 years ago

@Benjamin Nead

To my knowledge there has only been the first generation - they haven't mentioned they've changed anything yet. Their first try has a 24 kwh battery (Bob Lutz called it a 30 kwh battery - so I'm unsure if he misspoke, or he means its rather like the volt in that it is software limited to 24, but is really a 30 kwh battery when new, but designed for 10 years, 150,000 miles as is the Volt). The range extender is a small v6 (231 cu inch?) vs a big v8.
Drive motor is a 402 hp so its plenty for even the largest tow trucks.

Via claims the vehicle can go the first 40 - 50 miles (depending on the size of the truck) totally on its battery, and they have a 15 kw inverter (soon to also have a 50 kw option - thtthat would be decent for a level 3 charger), and they claim if you only drive 20-25 miles, you STILL have enough juice to run a Welder all day (8 hours)..

Of course it you use up all the juice, then the engine starts. But for most people it decreases their gasoline usage by 75-80%. Via stopped marketing since they're currently getting swamped with orders. Lutz says this vehicle is a bigger game changer than even the Volt currently is. How so? Its lifecycle operating cost is so low, even now at $80,000 a piece, that accountants have convinced their purchasing departments that it makes sense to buy these vehciles NOW, even without the "zero emission", and gas saving benefits.

Recharging has also been made easy, either 110 at 12 amps (no electrician needed), or the standard GM charge rate of 3.3 kw (full charge overnight in under 9 hours).

Any idea how far the typical AAA tow truck drives per work day?

· · 5 years ago

@Benjamin Nead

Just heard your interview for APR. I wanted to complement you on your announcer voice. You enunciate your words very precisely. Easy to understand what you say even over a din in the background.

· · 5 years ago

Thanks, Bill. I guess that's why they pay me the "big bucks."

That's good news regarding Via. I'm glad they're doing so well.

As far as a typical daily range for AAA service vehicles, I haven't a clue. I'm a AAA member and I've had to call regrading my old Saturn over the years.

If it's a mechanical issue with the vehicle or flat tire, they contract out the call to a private towing companies. It's been a different outfit every time (whoever is free at the moment) and they always come with a big flatbed and tow the car that way. Those guys are always on the move. Once they get me and my car delivered to the mechanic or tire shop, they're immediately moving on to the next call.

When it comes to dead 12V lead acid batteries from AAA, I get my warrantied units from them. AAA arrives with a pickup truck of their own and swaps out the old battery for new OEM spec one for free.

Roadside emergency recharging for EVs is new territory. It wouldn't surprise me if more and more independent companies don't pop up over the years to provide this service. AAA might eventually find it more profitable to farm out the business to these outfits and collect a commission, like the do today with the flatbed towing companies.

· · 5 years ago

10-minute charge for 3 miles, that's not a quick-charge... Maybe it's just 6.6kW L2 then? That would be disappointing.

Assistance vehicles should carry something like this instead:

· · 5 years ago

I hope they also put a high current L2 on the truck. Not all cars have DC but all can take AC. In the scope of the cost of a truck like this an AC inverter would hardly be noticed.

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