Club Assist: Ready to save a stranded EV near you

We've all heard the predictions of thousands of electric vehicles (EVs) stranded along the roadside, creating real world-victims of the dreaded "range anxiety" phenomena. Most drivers will never experience this, but if you're unfortunate enough to actually get stuck on the side of a road with an EV with no juice, Club Assist and your local auto club might be ready to ride to the rescue with their portable Level 2 emergency charging unit. Just like the emergency gallon of gas provided by traditional roadside assistance crews, the Club Assist charger will quickly get you enough electrons to go four to five miles. But be sure to have a book handy, because in addition to the time it takes to get the unit to your electric car, it will take about 20 minutes to get you that charge and get back on the road to a fixed charging point.

Club Assist, an Australian company that partners with more than 70 automotive club organizations around the world, launched a new mobile EVSE unit at the 2011 Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA) conference in Washington, D.C. this week. Al Bradshaw, vice president of product and technical development doesn't want to speculate on just how many Leaf owners might need his unit:

It's really more about peace of mind. Our customers, the Auto Clubs, want to show their members that they are supporting EVs. Whatever roadside help those customers need, we want to provide it.

Being a Level 2 unit, the portable EVSE can generate about 5 kW – which should be about what most of today's EV's can take as their maximum AC charging rate using the Level 2 system. But the next-generation system that Club Assist is working on is even faster (and cleaner!). Using a lithium-ion battery and DC/DC connection using the CHADEMO protocol, the system should offer a five- or ten-minute top up for anyone stuck at the roadside. Club Assist believes that their portable unit is a much better solution than towing the EV from the roadside, just remember to not stop on the left hand shoulder if you need a charge. Bradshaw said:

We need to consider safety as the top priority. We can't be stuck on the left hand side of the road for 20 minutes causing a gawker slowdown, so we'll probably only use it on the right-hand side emergency lanes. If the car's stuck on the left, we'll send a tow truck.

Hopefully we're not going to see too many of these units out in use any time soon, but for those early adopter EV owners out there, it's nice to know that the auto clubs are moving with the times.

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