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NRMA to the rescue for EVs

EV rider: The NRMA now has a mobile EV charging unit towed behind a motorbike.

Australia’s first mobile electric vehicle charger rolls into action in Sydney

General News logo12 Jul 2011

SYDNEY’S electric vehicle drivers can rest easier with the arrival of Australia’s first mobile charging unit that can give EV batteries a quick zap should drivers run out of power and become stranded.

The NRMA motoring club roadside assistance unit – using a small Honda petrol generator and a modified home wall charging unit packed into a trailer behind a motorcycle – can give a typical electric-powered car, such as a Mitsubishi i-MiEV, enough charge in 30 to 40 minutes at 15amps to get the car about 10km and to the nearest permanent charging point for a full charge.

Developed by Australian-based international battery swap company Club Assist and destined to be rolled out around the world to up to 70 motoring organisations, the mobile charger can also ramp up the charge from 15amps to 30amps, should the vehicle be capable of accepting the higher rate, to halve the charging time to as little as 15 minutes.

Club Assist is working on an even faster and more powerful mobile unit to cut the turnaround time to less than 10 minutes.

The service has been likened to a roadside assistance technician giving a stranded motorist a splash of petrol to reach the nearest service station. Until now, the only alternative has been to call a tow truck.

80 center imageLeft: The NRMA's i-MiEV EV roadside assistance unit.

The NRMA has also introduced its first electric-powered roadside assistance unit, an i-MiEV, to service the Sydney CBD and surrounding areas to test the viability of such vehicles in the emergency role.

The NRMA’s head of community engagement Brad O’Hara told GoAuto the i-MiEV – complete with tools to tend to breakdowns of conventional cars – could cover about 100-110km between charges, meaning it should be on the road up to six hours a day.

As well, the NRMA is also preparing to open its first public kerbside fast-charging point for EVs, at the organisation’s operations centre at North Strathfield, in Sydney’s inner west, where drivers can ‘fill up’ for free.

The fast charger – a high-voltage level-three unit from American company Acker Wade and installed by Club Assist – is the first public unit in New South Wales and only the second in Australia after a similar installation at Mitsubishi Motors Australia’s Clovelly Park headquarters in South Australia.

The NRMA already has two level-two 30amp units for its own use, to power up its i-MiEV, at its Sydney head office car park and inside the Strathfield operations centre.

As revealed exclusively by GoAuto in December, the Club Assist mobile charging unit has been under development since last year.

Dubbed Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE), the unit will be rolled out initially across the US, Canada and Australia in the next few months.

Next week, the huge American Automobile Association (AAA) – which has 52 million members – is set to unveil the unit at the Plug-In 2011 Conference and Exposition in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The portable EVSE provides up to 5.5kW of power from the petrol generator. In future, Club Assist hopes to employ DC/DC fast charging from lithium-ion batteries through the CHAdeMO (‘charge de move’) protocol developed by a Japanese consortium headed by the Tokyo Electric Power Company in league with Toyota, Nissan, Mitsubishi and Subaru.

Based in Dandenong, Victoria, where it started out as a battery shop founded by brothers Brett and Stuart Davies who still run the giant organisation, Club Assist counts Australia’s big motoring clubs as major shareholders and is partnered with similar organisations across North America, Europe and the Asia Pacific.

Last year, its workforce of 6000 supplied 2.2 million batteries to stranded motorists.

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