AAA Charging Trucks Seldom See Action

SEP 3 2016 BY MARK KANE 33

AAA’s mobile electric vehicle charging

AAA’s mobile electric vehicle charging

AAA introduced a mobile electric vehicle charging service in 2011, offering Level 2 AC charging and/or CHAdeMO DC fast charging services from a specialized truck.

As a result, stranded EVs could now count on help in several pilot markets set up by AAA, but after five years it seems that there is not much need for an emergency recharge service.

Apparently, electric car owners are very aware of the range abilities of their vehicles, and seldom call for AAA’s help.

With a 15-minutes fast recharge, EVs could back on the road and ready go another 15-20 miles to home or charging station.

Greg Brannon, AAA director of automotive engineering and industry relations said:

“It seems that folks who drive an electric vehicle are very aware of the range of that electric vehicle. 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.”

Because the major market test area hasn’t shown high demand for mobile electric vehicle charging, there is currently no plan for nationwide roll-out.  So we guess that is good news?  Hard to say, depends on one’s perspective we suppose.

“the number of individual service calls due to EVs running out of charge to be “in the thousands, but not tens of thousands, of incidents.””

AAA’s pilot includes:

  • Denver
  • Los Angeles
  • Orlando
  • Phoenix
  • Portland
  • Seattle
  • San Francisco

Interesting is that in 2015 “about a half a million of AAA’s 32 million total roadside assistance calls (1.5%) were from drivers who ran out of gas”.  ICE drivers, accustomed to longer ranges, more often forget to fill up and become stranded than BEV drivers apparently.

source: Car And Driver, hat tip to sven!

Categories: Charging

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33 Comments on "AAA Charging Trucks Seldom See Action"

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Isn’t it easier just to tow to nearest DCFC / L2 rather than use a truck to charge? If all EV wheels are in contact with the ground, EV can regen-charge while being towed. For non-Chademo cars, that would be the quicker way to charge.

That’s what’s included in the rate when renting a Renault Z.E. battery.
In that case mentioned in the news, the truck is blocked for 15min. In that time, they could very often reach a place to charge and problably the vehicles to pick up that stranded EV is lighter than that truck with that big battery (with a ICE generator (what probably most current EV drivers would dislike) that truck should be smaller IMHO).


The Tesla Model S has a “tow mode”. You are supposed to put the car in Neutral and in tow mode when it’s being towed.

Now, that’s not to say it can’t be towed to recharge. Some crazy Russians do it! But it’s certainly not recommended, and some suggest that may void the warranty.

I wonder how many production EVs, if any, can safely be towed while in regen mode?

The car doesn’t know the difference between going down hill and being towed as far as regen is concerned. I don’t see the problem.

E.g. steering/braking booster is disabled when the battery is too low? The regen charging electronic expects power from the battery to work, so the battery won’t charge if too low?


You should throw in the towel before it shuts down. I would not recomend to tow an EV which is totally depleted, but as long as you still have enough power to keep it idle there should not be any problem. Using low regen on flat, no regen uphill and higher regen downhill you should be able to charge up a small amount so you are able to manouver the car to the charging stall without overloading the towing car. Heavy use of regen puts a lot of stress on the towing car.

No, a DCQC aka CHAdeMO can charge at 50kw. Towing would max out at 30kw.

And as more less-astute EV drivers are added, that 1.5% may be exceeded by the general population of future EV drivers.

Now is a good time to add this service nationwide so “the support system” is ready to support these drivers.

Based on 20 miles in 15 minutes, I suspect tow truck has 20 kW (or 25 kW) Chademo, not 50 kW like most standalone units. Even 30 kW tow regen on Leaf would be quicker. And it would save time by having the towing miles toward final destination.

Aside from AAA, another option would be to always have your sexy girlfriend in your EV. It seems guys on giant pick up trucks are always willing to lend a helping hand (or tow) to sexy blond girl in tight shorts.


I was just thinking the same. That’s what we do in Norway at least. I recall last winter on one of the coldest days I had forgotten to push the “charge immediately” button when I came to work, so I had to go to a DCFC station. Apparently the cold had given several people less range than they expected, because it was the first and so far the only time I have had to queue for a spot. It was about -20 degrees celsius, which meant not only that more people needed to charge, but also that charging took much longer. I had been waiting for about half an hour when a truck came in with a BMW i3. The truck driver told me the i3 driver had just continued to drive on the highway despite all the warnings and eventually reduced speed from his i3. He had kept going until the car was completely out of juice and refused to move, and this in turn had made it very to get the i3 onto the truck. It was probably the low point of my EV ownership experiences. But on the other hand it was sort of social as well.… Read more »
Terawatt said: “He had kept going until the car was completely out of juice and refused to move, and this in turn had made it very to get the i3 onto the truck.” I’m guessing the missing word here is “hard”, as in it make it very hard to get the i3 onto the truck? Not that I want to highlight an error on your part, Terawatt; I do the same far too often myself. But I don’t want to put words in your mouth. Anyway, I was just thinking of the infamous Broder report from a New York Times reporter; an inexperienced PEV (Plug-in EV) driver running out of “juice” in very cold weather in a Model S. Broder reported that neither he nor the tow truck driver were able to get the car to move, so — if I recall correctly — the tow truck had to put the rear wheels of the Model S up on dollies to move it. Elon Musk later protested, responding that they just didn’t use the right setting on the car’s interface (I’m guessing “tow mode”), but the point is that it may not be easy, for those without experience, to figure… Read more »
SparkEV, what you say is TOTALLY TRUE, however, you have to have the foresight to do this 10 seconds before the battery actually dies. In my Roadster’s case, (prior to installation of new software, which then warned you of the Penultimate electron from the battery), the lights, heater, and wipers would continue to work at full brightness, but the car would revert to neutral, and there is no possibly way to regenerate in neutral. If someone had the foresight to drive down a hill JUST prior to the ‘neutralizing event’, then that could fully recharge the battery. But 99% of the callers will have progressed beyond the point of no return. Of course, one could do as I did when I ran out – run into a nearby bar with a 110 volt extension cord and charge for 1/2 an hour to go 1/4 mile to the nearest public charger. In fact, hopefully the AAA won’t get too discouraged. All they need is a 1500 watt 120 volt inverter on their trucks, to charge the EV at its basic rate from ANY charge state. If a few minutes of doing this charges the battery BEYOND the point of no return,… Read more »

Foresight might needed for some EV for regen charge. But even just to get to DCFC or L2, it would be better to simply tow rather than sit there and charge from on-truck generator.

If Roadster is dead and cannot accept tow charge (ie, stuck in neutral, it would be better to simply tow to local Tesla charger or even L2 rather than monkeying around with on-truck and having the tow truck sit there for an hour. The driver is getting paid by time, and it would be more expensive than putting few miles on the tow truck.

The various first-person accounts you can see posted to the Internet about people running low on “juice” in an EV certainly are troublesome, or even in some cases hair-raising, and definitely contribute to a bad reputation for EVs.

But these accounts are usually from people unfamiliar with driving an EV. Remember the infamous “Broder” account from a New York Times reporter, which detailed running a Model S battery to exhaustion? Broder’s account was notoriously full of inaccuracies, but it does show the problems that can crop up for someone completely unfamiliar with driving a BEV.

There is a learning curve for driving a BEV, and getting used to watching the range to make sure you don’t run out of “juice”. My guess is that most people who do run their battery flat while on the road are new drivers, still unfamiliar with managing charge level and estimating remaining range.

We have driven our MiEV for 3+years and 54.000mi and due to it’s short range had a couple(less then 10) of close encounters and a couple of times running completely out of juice. It’s usually, when you are a bit late(=drive faster) or run into D-tours. All of these were within 2mi from our house and we just got the ICE to tow us the rest.
You live and learn and I’d rather take that risk then driving any ICE.
Looking forward to upgrading my 2001 ICE to a long range electric car in a couple of years.

That’s pretty easy to say when you actually HAVE an ICEV that you can use to tow your i-Miev home again. I’m not so sure you would regard it as a minor annoyance if you had to pay for a rescue service each of the times you’ve run out.

Well, if you can actually tow an i-MiEV with a normal gasmobile (i.e., not a tow truck) even when it has completely run out of juice, then that puts it one up on the Model S, the Roadster, and perhaps (from what someone posted above) the i3 too.

Typical Statement from someone who is almost always wrong when delving into specifics, as I learned much more from the Tesla Graphs of Broder’s experience than any other Source of Information.

Bill, you seem to have a rather large chip on your shoulder. May I suggest in what I hope is a polite manner that you take note of it, and make some attempt to reduce its size.

I found a detailed analysis of the Broder vs. Musk feud to be highly informative about the performance of the Model S — and PEVs in general — in cold weather, and that analysis also touched on many other issues.

Interesting reading, for those interested:

Your above link shows 18 graphs alone, so your statement of “I found no graphs” is non-sensical since you stumbled on many of them without trying.

BTW, Bill, you might want to check your sources on what you’re claiming here. Just now, glancing over Broder’s articles on the subject, I see no graphs at all. Perhaps you’re confusing what Broder wrote with the detailed graphs in the third-party analysis which I linked to, above.

And have a nice day.

You are particularly mis-informed, the ‘chip’ on my shoulder is due to you assuming that EV drivers are stupid to run out of battery, while you, who is only rarely even near an EV have zero experience with them; they are more complicated to drive and charge than you imagine.

IF you can swallow your pride a bit, there was a very interesting, uncommonly friendly discussion of this whole issue on “plugincarS” 3 years ago; also there are embedded links to the graphs and the Minnesota Tesla owner’s troubles.

I could have used one of those about 6 months ago when I ran out of juice in a Leaf.

I did not know we had this in the Denver area, good to know.

In the greater Phoenix,AZ area we have over 500 public charging spots. It would be hard to run low on a charge.

It has less to do with keeping better track of how much power is left and more to do with charging at home, starting out with enough range for each day to begin with.

People don’t go to gas stations when they have 3/4 tank or even half a tank. They know well in advance that doing so would keep them from running out of gas but buying gas isn’t convenient so they wait until they are almost empty. EV owners will park in the garage at night and take an extra 10 seconds to plug in even with a 3/4 charge because there is no inconvenience.

Many many times have I seen an ICE car parked on the shoulder with a person either walking away from it or walking towards it with a gas can in their hand. Even in EV friendly Seattle I do not recall ever seeing an EV on a shoulder or being towed.

No, I could have used this once. I had NO idea AAA offered this service, its the first time I have heard about it.

As it is, it cost me $75 to tow my leaf 5 blocks.

Because people wrongfully label it range anxiety, the fear of being stranded, which doesn’t really exist…What exists is charging station anxiety…

Is there one nearby?
Is it well lit/safe?
Is my vehicle compatible?
Is it operational?
Is it congested?
Is it affordable?
Do I need to sign up for an account before I can use it?

“Do you have to have an account?” Although I frequently use the ChargePoint public wallboxes, I find them problematic and basically wrong-headed. If they are free, then I have no idea why they need to know precisely who I am – and the account proving stuff is rather dopey. 1). When the card they give you ‘ages’ it most times will give an ‘unauthorized user’ alarm, before it will correctly authorize you. 2). Those dopey cord locks fail with an unnerving frequency – you are authorized but there’s no way to get the cord out of the wallbox. And the new ‘Tv-Set’ models always take much too long a time to release the cord. The end result is the typical ChargePoint is less reliable and takes longer to negotiate than the typical credit card enabled gas pump. They’ve made them difficult enough to use that most people probably don’t bother with the hastle, and therefore, there are more free spots available, a left-handed silver lining. But there is no reason in the world, if you want to convince people to switch to plug-in-cars, to have the experience take long and be much more frustrating than the gas station. I don’t… Read more »

I once charged from a AAA truck, and ironically it was at a Drive Electric week event! I don’t even remember if I absolutely *had* to or if I just did because it was there and offered.

Sure did feel a bit sheepish though charging via a big diesel generator. Good thing it was around a corner, almost out of sight! 😀

They should keep the service and expect to help stranded Model 3 drivers in the next two years that aren’t charge savvy.