• Mar 1, 2010
Nissan Leaf – Click above for high-res image gallery

In a lengthy article comparing the long-term costs of the Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Volt on Boston.com, we find this interesting tidbit:
[Mark] Perry [Nissan's director of product planning, pictured above] says Nissan also will provide roadside assistance and envisions motoring-aid companies such as AAA having fast charge units on their trucks.
We have here two things worth noting. First, that Nissan is already planning on ways to combat range anxiety and is thinking of what will happen when the reality of electric vehicles (EVs) meets the public-at-large. Second, there are some serious logistical challenges to remote recharging from a AAA truck. How big a battery must the service vehicle carry around to provide enough energy for your car? Would it be better/easier to just tow the car to an outlet somewhere? How much sense does it make to send out a gasoline-burning truck to charge up an electric car? However these questions get answered, it's clear that driver education will need to go hand in hand with reassurances that someone will come save you if you run out of juice as EVs go mainstream.

[Source: Boston.com]


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  • 38 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      Just pull the car with a tow truck and the regen will do the rest ;-)
        • 4 Years Ago
        That's a really interesting idea! But I suspect there's no charge mode in an EV to "tow me but apply a little bit of regenerative braking to recharge my battery", let alone a way for the tow truck's braking system to signal the EV to apply its brakes to slow the truck + EV down

        The only thing I could find on the web is an RV owner who wants to tow a small car or truck behind their RV and use its regen braking to do something useful when slowing the RV down.

        Does anyone know for sure?
      • 4 Years Ago
      If AAA handles remote charging stations as badly as they do their insurance business and administration there are going to be a lot of EV drivers stranded by the side of the road, waiting for the home office to fill out the necessary triplicate paperwork to sell them a single electron.
      harlanx6
      • 4 Years Ago
      People run out of gas all the time and you can bet they will end up out some where discharged. AAA rates are going up up up! You got to remember you don't have to prove you have good sense to buy a car!
      • 4 Years Ago
      Like the last sentence of the article states, "if you run out of juice". It should be a rare event that people actually run out of charge. How often do people run out of gas? How about this; Don't be an idiot.

        • 4 Years Ago
        Running out of juice - like running out of gas - should be a rare occurrence.

        I've always recommended AAA membership to friends and family, and they provided a great service in a few sticky situations. AAA is showing a very reasonable mindset in planning for such an unusual situation, and is doing its members a service by acting in such a forward-thinking manner. They certainly want to have a solution in place ASAP, so that they will be ahead of the curve.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I the 3 years I have owned my Ranger EV, I have had to call the tow truck 3 times. The first time doesn't really count because it delivered the truck to my house (and didn't have any charge to start with).

        The other two times were due to unexpectedly having the charge not match expectations. I usually get about 40 miles on a charge. For whatever reason (I think it's mostly due to aging batteries) I was only about half of that when the truck suddenly shut down.

        I still drive the truck regularly, and haven't had to call for a tow. But yes on those rare occasions I do have to, mainly because the only place I can charge it is at home (it's 220VAC). Newer cars will have more charge options, and hopefully parking spaces will also have such options. But yes, there are those times when things just don't go the way you expect them to. People run out of gas all the time, Batteries will be no different.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I agree.

        I was thinking that AAA could hire 3rd grade teachers to ride along in their trucks. If they get a call from an EV driver who has run out of juice, the teacher could explain basic math principles as well as cover some remedial reading comprehension material for those who have trouble reading the digital display in their car.

        A 150# teacher shouldn't have too much of an effect on fuel efficiency for the AAA truck, right?
      davidcg580
      • 4 Years Ago
      I'm trying to understand what kind of moron would drive this car to the point whereas they'd run out of charge.

      First, there is GPS on the vehicle telling someone where the nearest charging station is.

      Second, I think it would be pretty simple to put an alarm on the vehicle when there is only 15 minutes/15 miles of charge left.

      Third, lets talk about Nissan's target buyer for the Leaf. I am guessing it is to the family who has 2 vehicles. One of which is a to work and vacation vehicle and the other vehicle is a to work/around town vehicle. If that's the case, how in the world will one run out of charge with charging stations around everywhere they go?

      This issue should be the least of everyone's worries.

        • 4 Years Ago
        @davidcg580
        I plan on having an electric car, possibly the Nissan Leaf, as my only car. I'm not worried about being stranded--I know how to read a gauge on the dashboard.

        Also, how come there's always a comment about the Leaf being ugly? It looks very similar to every other hatchback on the road: Mazda 3, Nissan Versa, Toyota Matrix, etc.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @davidcg580
        "15 minutes/15 miles of charge left"

        EVs don't really work that way. They slow down gradually until you'd have the accelerator pegged but only be going 15mph. The nice part is you can pull over and due to "chargeback" effect you can regain some of your lost oomph just by waiting.

        It does take some getting used to. I've nearly run out of charge in my EV and had to limp home at 10mph. It's nerve-wracking and a little dangerous. But just like with ICE cars, you develop a sixth sense that says, "time to head home", and with a little experience it's not a problem.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @davidcg580
        Hey WT, what controller are you using on your EV? Not all of them have a "limp home" capability.

        On the idea of "chargeback" I think that only pertains to lead acid batteries. I do not believe that NiMH or Lithium Ion work that way and draining the battery too far would dramatically shorten their lifespan.
      • 4 Years Ago
      In the near term i.e. up to 10 years, it does make sense to send a gasoline burning truck to rescue a stranded EV. Also I am sure that it makes a lot more sense to have a large alternator (like GM basic hybrid) capable of providing the required charge current for the EV. This means the truck will not have to carry around a large battery.
        • 4 Years Ago
        royharvie:
        Methanol FCs are presently available for a relative decent price. Further price reductions can be expected for mass production items. I could imagine a FC of the right size being implemented as a range extender. That would definitely take care of the range problem and also sever oil dependencies.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Yeah, it's kinda sad, but i can see a hybrid truck or something like that doing the job.

        More environmentally friendly than towing the EV to a charge station, for now.
        • 4 Years Ago
        If you read the fine print on those Methanol Fuel Cells you will see why they are only being used on low power electronics and why they aren't being even considered for electric vehicles.

        The power rating is extremely low... even the largest one built is about 20 watts. Great for portable electronics, but it will not work for EVs that require several kilowatts.

        http://www.eetimes.com/news/latest/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=165700045
        http://www.physorg.com/news181051490.html
      • 4 Years Ago
      While the article is a bit off in some of their assumptions (e.g., the battery will not use full capacity to get 100 miles for durability reasons), it brings up a pretty good point.

      When the service truck pulls up when you run out of gas, it doesn't fill your whole tank, just enough to get to the gas station. So how much would be needed to get to the next charging point? 1 kWh should move the LEAF ~5 miles (especially on limp mode), and would weigh ~25 lbs, which is easy to carry.... 1 kWh of high current DC to DC charging could take ~1 minute. But anything more than that would probably be truck mounted and take a little longer.

      Charging vs towing would depend on how far you are from a charging point.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Japan... the ones who brought us the Play Station 3, the Nissan GT-R, the Datsun 510! All great looking pieces of art! So how the hell is it possible for the Japanese to create the Nissan Leaf, one of the most horrendous looking cars ever to be created!
        • 4 Years Ago
        And the Astro Van is a very underrated design, its esteem undermined by a poor interior and horrible 80s GM ergonomics.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The Datsun 510 was a work of art? You could have fooled me, and I even owned one in my youth.

        The Leaf looks pretty close to the Versa on which it's based. Nissan sells lots of Versas. So either you're wrong about the Leaf being an ugly hunk of junk, or people don't care too much about what a "practical car" looks like. And considering how many Chevy Astro vans were sold, I'd say the latter is the case.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Ernie, yes, the Datsun 510 was a work of art. Like Green Destiny said, art is not just facial beauty. PLUS, the 510 helped paved the way for affordable performance cars, the "poor man's BMW" as I like to say.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Yes, the Datsun 510 is a work of art.

        Art is more than facile beauty.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Ernie, yes, the Datsun 510 was a work of art. Like Green Destiny said, art is not just facial beauty. PLUS, the 510 helped paved the way for affordable performance cars, the "poor man's BMW" as I like to say.
      • 4 Years Ago
      AAA is not the only game in town. You can get good roadside assistance in elsewhere, like your auto-insurance company.

      I don't want to totally appear like a corporate shill, so I won't say which auto-insurance company I use. However, I can tell you this: Ask some tow truck drivers about how much the various roadside assistance companies pay the contracted tow truck companies for an emergency roadside assistance call.

      The answer? AAA pays the LOWEST. That's why a call for help to AAA can take hours before someone shows up. When I had AAA in south Florida, you could watch a chapter of the Lord of the Rings trilogy before that AAA-contracted help finally came.

      By contrast, the towing/roadside assistance companies contracted by the nationwide auto insurance company I use pay better, nearly triple, for a roadside assistance incident in comparison to what AAA pays per incident. Knowing this, which customer are the tow truck drivers going to assist first?

      You don't have to believe me, ask tow truck drivers yourself.

      When I finally buy my Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt or (well, fingers crossed) Tesla Model S, I'll continue to trust in that channel instead. Even if I have to get towed home to charge again because that whole charging-station-at-every-Wal-Mart thing fell through. (In my case, the roadside assistance option on my insurance is only $6 extra a month.)
      • 4 Years Ago
      neither do practical hydrogen vehicles
      • 4 Years Ago
      Diesel hybrid tow-trucks that generate electricity. This should be a non issue.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Except that those don't currently exist.
        • 4 Years Ago
        "neither do practical hydrogen vehicles"

        ^^

      • 4 Years Ago
      In the Netherlands roads are so busy, that a broken down vehicle on the hard shoulder already causes a traffic jam. I would invest in bullet proof windows, if I was to own an EV :-)
        • 4 Years Ago
        You're not from the Netherlands, that much is clear.

        I'm guessing Texas or Oklahoma. Pow, pow! Yee Haa! Pow, pow!
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