2011 Nissan Leaf

Nissan is testing out a new idea that will help combat "range anxiety" – the fear that your electric car will run out of juice and leave you stranded. In partnership with the Japanese Automobile Federation, Japan's version of AAA, the automaker has begun trial operation of a roadside service vehicle complete with a charger to assist marooned electric cars.

The Japanese automaker developed the EV saver – which looks like a tow truck that can't tow – as part of a technology development project launched by Japan's Ministry of the Environment seeking "green innovation." While the idea has yet to make it stateside, it seems inevitable as the number of electric vehicles in the US increases.

"As EVs gain wider consumer acceptance, it is important to create a roadside assistance system that can help motorists driving EVs which have run out of battery power," said Hitoshi Kawaguchi, Nissan's senior vice president of external and governmental affairs. "This will build confidence in EV use and contribute toward achieving a society with low carbon emissions."

While the service is just getting started, with only one truck operated out of JAF's Kanagawa branch office near Tokyo, it's not hard to imagine expanding it as electric vehicles go global. Although Nissan has sold less than 2,000 units of its fully-electric Leaf in the US since its debut late last year, the automaker plans to record 10,000 sales by the end of 2011 – and more EVs are sure to follow.

Nissan says the Leaf is capable of being recharged in around 30 minutes with a high-voltage quick-charger, but it hasn't specified whether JAF's recharging truck will use that system. Regardless of how long it takes for the service to recharge an electric vehicle, just knowing it's there will surely provide peace of mind for EV owners – and it might even help a few car shoppers get over their range anxiety and into a brand-new electric car.

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Jeffrey Archer is fortunate to have turned a passion for cars into a career. His wide-ranging automotive experience includes work for automakers and dealers in addition to covering the news. When not writing, he spends his time searching for unique cars on AutoTrader.com.

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