RALEIGH, NC -- AAA has unveiled a roadside assistance truck that can provide Level 2 and Level 3 charging to electric vehicles. 

During a news conference at the Plug-In 2011 Conference & Exposition, AAA said it will initially deploy the trucks with mobile electric vehicle charging capability in six metropolitan areas across the U.S. as a pilot program. The urban areas are Portland (Ore.), Seattle, the San Francisco Bay area, Los Angeles, Knoxville (Tenn.), and the Tampa Bay area. The phased rollout will begin later this summer and continue into the fall.

"While these six areas are part of the initial pilot program, we've had tremendous interest from AAA clubs across the country to offer this service to their members, and we anticipate expanding the program to additional areas in the months following initial deployment," said John Nielsen, AAA director of auto repair, buying services and consumer information. 

The pilot program will include AAA roadside assistance vehicles equipped with different mobile EV-charging technologies. This will allow the motor club to evaluate various technologies in different environments around the country.

The truck unveiled at Plug-In 2011 is powered by Green Charge Networks. The vehicle features a removable lithium-ion battery pack for mobile charging. Other vehicles will be equipped with generators powered by alternative fuels and other power sources.

The truck is similar to AAA's other light services vehicles -- a notable difference from mobile charging vehicles recently unveiled in other countries. Officials demonstrated how the truck is equipped to allow AAA's technicians to provide traditional roadside assistance, such as battery testing, jump starts and replacements, tire changes, fuel delivery and lockout service. 

"AAA has been a leader in addressing the needs of motorists for more than a century, and the introduction of mobile electric vehicle charging continues that tradition," said Marshall L. Doney, AAA automotive vice president. "As the electric vehicle market continues to emerge, AAA is ready to help alleviate some 'range anxiety' with the ability to provide a charge to electric vehicles on the roadside that gets drivers back on the go quickly."

AAA will provide 10 to 15 minutes of charge time to members with discharged electric vehicles, which will allow the vehicle to drive three to 15 miles to a charging station where they can further charge their vehicle.

The first Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt were delivered to customers in December 2010, and manufacturers estimate production by year-end to be a combined 40,000 vehicles with an additional 145,000 planned for 2012. Current manufacturer projections have 1.2 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.

There are three charging levels for electric vehicles. Level 1 is a standard 120-volt household outlet, which would take roughly 20 hours to fully charge a Nissan Leaf. Level 2 is 240 volts AC (alternating current). This is commonly found in household electric clothes dryers and can charge a Nissan Leaf in approximately six hours. Level 3 is DC (direct current) charging at high voltage -- up to 500 volts DC. This allows a large amount of energy to be delivered to an electric vehicle in a very short period of time. A "depleted" Nissan Leaf could go to 80 percent state-of-charge in roughly 30 minutes with Level 3 charging.