AAA Introduces Roadside Emergency Charging for Electric Cars

By · August 24, 2011

AAA's John Nielsen proposed and designed the Mobile Electric Vehicle Charging truck.

AAA's John Nielsen proposed and designed the Mobile Electric Vehicle Charging truck.

Many of us have called AAA when we need a battery charged or a bit of gas. Well, now we will be able to call AAA if our electric vehicle battery runs low. The Automobile Association of America yesterday introduced its new mobile EV recharging service vehicles. The service will be free to members.

“There is no return on investment on the service. It was just the right thing to do,” said John Nielsen, director of automotive repair, buying services & consumer information with AAA.

Nielsen, an engineer who has worked for AAA for 13 years, proposed the service more than two years ago and the board immediately agreed, he said. He also designed the trucks.

There will be six vehicles in the one-year pilot, using three different technologies. There are few pure electric vehicles on the road right now, Nielsen said, and AAA wants to use this time to learn which technology works the best and is most durable.

Two vehicles will have a lithium-ion battery pack in the back of a truck that will transfer charge to the EV’s battery. Two others will be heavy-duty pickup trucks with a generator that can add charge to the batteries and is run by the truck’s engine. The final two will have a stand-alone generator in the back of the pickup, which will be powered by compressed natural gas. The trucks have Level 2 and DC fast-charging capability.

DC Fast Charging capability of the AAA mobile trucks.

AAA's Allan Stanley demonstrates the DC Fast Charging capability of the mobile trucks.

In 10 to 15 minutes, the trucks can provide about 10 miles worth of charge to pure electric vehicles such as the Nissan LEAF, Mitsubishi i, or Smart Electric Drive, said Allan Stanley, manager of technical training and research. Charge time is about the same for all vehicles, he said, though some might be a bit slower because of built-in thermal control technology. The six trucks will also be used for the usual AAA services such as recharging a regular battery or changing a flat, added Stanley.

They will be deployed in Los Angeles; the San Francisco Bay Area; Portland, OR; Seattle, WA; Knoxville, TN; and the Tampa Bay area in Florida. Phased deployment will begin later this summer. AAA “anticipates” adding additional units to new areas after this initial deployment, it said in a release.
These prototype trucks were “really expensive,” said Nielsen. But AAA hopes to get the cost for outfitting trucks for EV charging down to $20,000 per unit, said Nielsen.

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