AAA To Offer Mobile Charging For EVsBy Scott Doggett June 21, 2011
The American Automobile Association (AAA), the largest automotive emergency services provider in U.S., has announced plans to deploy electric-vehicle mobile charging units in its roadside assistance operations. The announcement was made only days after Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn told AutoObserver that the automaker was working with a company to offer the same service in Japan on a trial basis. The establishment of rapid-charging roadside assistance is seen by Ghosn and others as one of the major ways to combat "range anxiety" -- the unease some motorists feel about the possibility of running out of juice while driving a battery-electric vehicle. The other major ways: increasing Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) batteries' energy storage in order to boost range, and creating an infrastructure for BEV charging. Numerous companies, governmental agencies and other entities are working on the batteries and infrastructure.
AAA, a federation of 51 independently operated motor clubs throughout North America, told an audience attending an Electric Drive Transportation Association event in Orlando, Florida, that it has a fully functioning electric-vehicle mobile charging unit ready to deploy into its roadside assistance operations. The federation said it will unveil the latest addition to its fleet of roadside assistance vehicles at the Plug-In 2011 Conference & Exposition in Raleigh, N.C., next month and begin initial deployment with at least six mobile-charging units in select states beginning in August. The states include California, Florida, Georgia, Oregon, Tennessee and Washington, AAA spokeswoman Christie Hyde said.
In an email exchange with AutoObserver, Hyde said all of the pilot-program vehicles will be equipped with Level 2 (240 volts of alternating current) and Level 3 (up to 500 volts of direct current) chargers. The AAA's Level 3 chargers will use a connector designed to work with the so-called CHAdeMO charging technology, named after a group formed by the Tokyo Electric Power Company, Nissan, Mitsubishi and Fuji Heavy Industries (the manufacturer of Subaru vehicles). Toyota later joined as its fifth executive member. Some automakers use connectors that follow U.S. and European standards. Until all are using the same connector, it won't be possible for all electric vehicles to use every Level 3 charger.
But Hyde said AAA "will assess and adapt as necessary to continue to provide a superior level of roadside assistance to our members without regard to the technology of their vehicle." In other words, as electric vehicles enter the market, the company will add equipment to their service trucks so they will be able to charge depleted BEV batteries regardless of the connectors to which they are attached. Level 3 chargers can typically charge a depleted BEV battery in a matter of minutes. A Level 2 charger requires hours.
In a meeting with journalists at Stanford University last week, Ghosn disclosed that Nissan and the Japan Automobile Federation had embarked on a joint trial operation involving trucks (right) outfitted with a level 3 BEV charger. Development of "quick-intervention systems," as he called them, such as the Nissan-JAF roadside-assistance service will help reduce range anxiety among BEV owners. "In Japan, we are testing a system where you have a problem, give a call and a truck will come with a fast charger," he said. Under the program that is now underway, JAF will deploy the roadside service vehicle with the charger from its Kanagawa branch office and will use it on a trial basis as part of their service menu for fiscal year 2011.
JAF Executive Director Masakazu Kume said in a statement that the automotive club has been working on ways to create an environment where motorists can drive battery-electric vehicles with the assurance that assistance is available if they become inoperable. JAF has already prepared special insulated gloves and goggles for its service vehicle staff to assist BEVs, he said, without elaborating on the vehicles might require either. "We will actively respond to requests from EV motorists as more and more EVs hit the road," he added.