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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

AAA Plans Electric-Vehicle Charger Trucks

AAA, the largest U.S. motorist group, plans to deploy fast-charging trucks to aid drivers of electric vehicles such as Nissan Motor Co.’s Leaf when their batteries run down.

The organization will test the trucks starting in August, Christie Hyde, a spokeswoman for Orlando, Florida-based AAA, said today. Initially, the group will have at least six “mobile charging units,” including in states such as California, Oregon, Washington, Florida, Tennessee and Georgia, she said.

“We know electric vehicles are coming and we’ve got to be ready for them,” Hyde said. She declined to provide details on the cost or makers of the units and said AAA will test chargers from multiple suppliers.

Models such as the Leaf and Tesla Motors Inc. (TSLA)’s Roadster are already available and major automakers are preparing to offer more electric vehicles, prompting development of charging infrastructure. Governments are pushing carmakers to boost fuel efficiency and trim emissions of carbon dioxide and pollutants.

With the prospect of more electric cars, power companies are upgrading their networks with so-called smart meters and new transformers to ensure customers can recharge their vehicles at home without difficulty. Companies such as General Electric Co. are developing charging stations.
AAA will unveil its first “mobile charging unit” at an electric vehicle conference in Raleigh, North Carolina, in July, Hyde said.’s Auto Observer blog reported AAA’s plans earlier today.

Following Japan

The U.S. plans come after Nissan and the Japan Automobile Federation this month said they’d also test charger trucks to repower stalled electric cars on that nation’s roads.

Nissan’s Leaf travels about 70 miles in combined city and highway driving per charge, while Tesla’s $109,000 Roadster is rated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as getting more than 200 miles per charge.

Nissan, which aims to be the world’s largest seller of electric cars, is aware of at least two incidents in which Leaf drivers drained their lithium-ion batteries and needed assistance, Katherine Zachary, a spokeswoman for the Yokohama, Japan-based company, said last week.

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