AAA’s EV Recharging Trucks Rarely Get Used

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With how often the topic of electric vehicles potentially running out of battery charge gets brought up in conversations about the limits of the technology, and so-called “range anxiety,” one would guess that electric vehicle owners must be getting stranded quite a bit.

Is that actually the case, though? Going by AAA’s electric vehicle (EV) recharging truck program, not so much. The company’s EV recharging trucks have apparently not been seeing much use in the markets where they’ve been introduced.

18 July 2011: AAA Mobile Electric Vehicle Charging will initially roll out as a pilot program in six areas across the country including Portland (Ore.), Seattle, the San Francisco Bay area, Los Angeles, Knoxville (Tenn.) and the Tampa Bay area.

And, it should be noted here, the markets where these recharging trucks have been introduced are major ones — Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, LA, Denver, Phoenix, and Orlando. These are places where you would perhaps expect that more EV drivers would be getting stranded (than actually seem to be). It should be remembered here that AAA has around 55 million members and receives around 32 million calls from stranded drivers a year (around half of whom have run out of fuel).

So, what does this mean? Are EV owners simply more aware of their remaining range than internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle owners are? More responsible? Less drunk?

18 July 2011: AAA will provide both Level 2 and Level 3 mobile charging to members with electric vehicles that become depleted.

CleanTechnica sister site Gas2 provides more: “Each truck has an onboard generator capable of recharging any electric car. Each has plugs and adapters for CHAdeMO, CSS, or Tesla Supercharger standards. Much to the surprise of AAA, however, the trucks have been used less often than anticipated. Electric car drivers, it seems, are far more conscious of how far then can drive without running out of battery charge than drivers of conventional cars are about how much fuel is left in the tank. … It seems that electric car owners automatically leave themselves about a 20% reserve, probably because they don’t want to get stuck with the bill for getting towed home if they run out of electricity.”

The director of automotive engineering and industry relations at AAA, Greg Brannon, commented: “Our feeling is that they keep a pretty close eye on it and manage their drive accordingly — much more so than a driver of a gasoline vehicle. It seems that folks who drive an electric vehicle are very aware of the range of that electric vehicle.”

Brannon continued, noting that the number of service calls AAA has gotten because of EVs running out of charge are “in the thousands, but not tens of thousands, of incidents.”

AAA is reportedly mulling the introduction of this EV recharging truck program to other cities.

Brannon noted that it was more a question of when, rather than if: “EVs are the future. It’s just a question of how quickly and how many.”

Photos by AAA

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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