Road support for EVs

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As the electric vehicle market continues to emerge, we need to be ready to help alleviate some ‘range anxiety’ with the ability to provide a charge to electric vehicles on the roadside that gets drivers back on the go quickly.” –Marshall Doney, vice president, AAA Automotive

It’s an inevitable “next step” in the growth curve of the electric vehicle (EV) market: first, production rates start climbing; second, more and more recharging locations pop up; and now, roadside support trucks that feature special equipment to handle the needs of EVs begin taking to the streets.

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AAA is now deploying the first such “roadside assistance trucks” designed to support EVs as part of a pilot test starting this summer in six major U.S. cities: Portland, OR; Seattle, WA; San Francisco, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Knoxville, TN; and Tampa Bay, FL.

These light-duty trucks come equipped with recharging technology designed to provide 10 to 15 minutes worth of electric to AAA members stuck on the side of the road with depleted batteries. That quick “jolt” from the truck’s recharging system should give EV owners just enough juice (one hopes at least) to drive three to 15 miles or so to a recharging station where they can finish re-powering their onboard battery pack.

“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, director of auto repair, buying services and consumer information for AAA.

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“AAA’s mobile electric vehicle charging is intended to be a service similar to what AAA has provided to motorists with gas-powered vehicles for nearly a century,” he added. “When your vehicle runs out of fuel — whether it is traditional gasoline or electric ‘fuel’ — AAA can provide you with a limited amount to help you safely reach a location where you can fill up your tank or your battery.”

The reason AAA is doing this is pretty simple, too: there’s a rapidly growing population of EVs out there on the streets, and it’s only going to get larger.

AAA said that vehicle manufacturers estimate EV production by year-end to be a combined 40,000 units, with an additional 145,000 planned for 2012. Farther down the road, projections are for some 1.2 million EVs to be plying U.S. roads by 2015, the group noted.

It’s but one example of how the alterations that need to be made to our “car culture” as more alternatively fueled vehicles begin hitting the road.

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