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AAA Combats Range Anxiety

If the American Automobile Association has its way, range anxiety may soon be a thing of the past. That’s because AAA recently unveiled North America’s first-ever roadside assistance trucks, capable of charging depleted electric vehicles on the spot.

The trucks will roll out this summer as a pilot program in six US metro areas: Knoxville, Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle and Tampa. EV-driving AAA members in those cities will benefit from level 2 or 3 roadside charging, making the trucks capable of fully recharging a Nissan Leaf in just 30 minutes.

“AAA has been a leader in addressing the needs of motorists for more than a century, and the introduction of mobile electric vehicle charging continues that tradition,” said Marshall L. Doney, vice president of AAA Automotive. “As the electric vehicle market continues to emerge, AAA is 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.”

According to AAA, the roadside assistance trucks will provide drivers with 10 to 15 minutes of charge time, allowing them to drive three to 15 miles to a charging station. The trucks will feature several different recharging capabilities like a lithium-ion battery and alternative fuel-powered generators, allowing AAA to evaluate the effectiveness of various technologies.

Although the trucks will initially debut as a pilot program, AAA says it’s had tremendous interest from regional AAA clubs to add the service across the country – a possibility the motor club isn’t ruling out as interest in electric vehicles continues to rise. AAA estimates nearly 40,000 electric vehicles could be on the road by the end of 2011, with an additional 145,000 planned for 2012 and a total of around 1.5 million by 2015.

“AAA’s mobile electric vehicle charging is intended to be a similar service to what AAA has provided to motorists with gas-powered vehicles for nearly a century,” said John Neilsen, AAA’s director of auto repair. “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.”

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