The equipment’s been purchased, the drivers have been trained and AAA is about to roll out the nation’s first fleet of mobile electric-vehicle quick chargers.
The company, which serves more than 52 million members, has spent three months lining up chargers, installing them on trucks and teaching its drivers how to properly charge an EV. With all of the I’s dotted and Ts crossed, AAA says the trucks are poised to hit the road.
“We’ll be rolled out in six cities by the end of the year,” John Nielson, the company’s national director of auto repair, tells us. “These trucks will be out on the road just like any other AAA service vehicle.”
AAA announced the program in July, one month after Nissan and the Japan Automobile Federation deployed a truck in Tokyo. AAA will deploy one truck in each of the EV-crazy cities you’d expect: Portland, Oregon; Seattle; the San Francisco Bay Area; Los Angeles; Knoxville, Tennessee; and Tampa, Florida.
The Obama administration loves cars with cords and wants 1 million on the road by 2015. As other automakers follow EVs like the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i to market, AAA says the program will roll into other cities.
“I think we’ll see rapid expansion to other cities with electric vehicles,” Nielson says. “But right now the goal is to make sure the proof of concept is durable.”
Each truck will have a conventional 220-volt Level 2 charger and a 440-volt direct current Level 3 charger — the so-called “quick chargers.” Although quick charging can “fill” a depleted battery in as little as 30 minutes, not all cars are equipped for it. The trucks have 25 kilowatt generators manufactured by Aerovironment and Green Charge Networks.
“Our goal is to provide 15 miles of range in 10 minutes of charging,” Nielson said.
That may not sound like much, but Nielson said AAA believes it should be enough to get people to a safe place to plug in — home, a dealership or one of the 1,300-plus (and growing) public charging stations in the United States.
“Our hypothesis is that we’re not going to have an out-of-energy situation because someone tried to drive from Los Angeles to Sacramento,” Nielson says. “We expect that most of the people will have missed their mark by just a short distance, where they’ve made an extra stop and find themselves just a few miles short of their destination.”
As for those generators, two will run on compressed natural gas, two will be powered by lithium-ion batteries charged by a dedicated high-amperage alternator and two will use hydraulic power take-off from the truck’s transmission.
“We want to do our best to power it with something clean,” Nielson says. “We want to avoid pulling up to an electric vehicle and firing up a diesel generator. We want to do this as cleanly as possible.”