Transportation alternatives
5:50 pm
Wed March 20, 2013

AAA's roadside service goes electric

Driving an all-electric vehicle just got a bit more mainstream.

The AAA Auto Club of Washington has launched a new emergency roadside service for electric cars. It now has a truck with a generator on board that can rescue drivers in the greater Seattle area if they’ve run out of charge.

John Milbrath, AAA’s member services vice president, says it’ll take just about 10 to 15 minutes to provide enough power to get a discharged car going again.

“That will allow the vehicle to drive up to 15 miles to a charging station where they can further charge their vehicle,” Milbrath said as he unveiled the new EV charging truck at AAA's Seattle headquarters.

There are now hundreds of charging stations in the central Puget Sound area.

Mibrath says AAA isn't expecting to get more than about 20 calls a year for the new service since the company estimates only a few hundred of their members drive electric cars. But it wants to be at the forefront of new technologies to support these new vehicles.

The trucks provide comprehensive roadside service, which includes providing jump starts and unlocking doors. They’ll be deployed along with the rest of the fleet for routine calls to rescue gasoline-powered cars. Some hope their special markings will instill more confidence in people who are on the verge of making leap to owning an electric vehicle.

“I hope that it will give more people that are considering buying an electric car the confidence to know that there is charging out there. And there is help out there for them, so they should go ahead and drive electric,” says Tonia Buell with the Washington State Department of Transportation.

WSDOT, together with Oregon, has been building the West Coast Electric Highway. Buell says there are now charging stations about every 35 miles along Interstate 5 as well as on Interstate 90 and Highway 2 in Washington. But she says people still have what they call “range anxiety” when they’re driving electric cars.

“Because a lot of these cars can only go about 80 miles before they need to recharge. And so this I think is going to give people range confidence,” Buell says.

Seattle is one of six metropolitan areas to get one of AAA’s electric vehicle charging trucks, along with Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Knoxville, and Orlando.