Many drivers of gas-fueled cars get their peace of mind with roadside assistance services offered by insurance companies, car manufacturers, and car clubs. But what about EV drivers? As you might guess, there are unique issues when it comes to servicing electric vehicles. New EV drivers may be wondering whether they can rely on the same safety-net their gas-powered cousins take for granted.
There are roadside assistance services for electric vehicles all over the country, and they’re getting more sophisticated as more drivers switch to EVs.
Many roadside services are the same whether you’re in a gas-powered car or an EV. Flat tires and accidents can happen to anyone, and handling the fallout is pretty similar no matter what type of car you’re driving. Likewise, EVs have 12-volt batteries just like conventional gas vehicles. If the 12-volt battery dies, the car will need a jump to start. Winching a car out of a ditch or unlocking a vehicle after the keys have been forgotten inside is going to be a similar process, regardless of what’s powering the engine. Any company offering roadside assistance should be able to help you out of these common situations.
Where EVs are Different
When you call your preferred roadside assistance service, you’ll want to let them know you’re driving an EV, since there are certain complications that only apply to electric powered vehicles. For example, most electric vehicles don’t have a true neutral position in their transmissions. Because of this, moving the wheels can cause the motor to turn as well, which can damage the engine. EVs generally require flatbed towing to prevent this type of damage.
Then there’s the issue of the high-powered traction battery, the one providing energy to move the car. There’s no gas tank to refuel in an all electric vehicle, so no jerry can to save the day. If your EV battery runs out while out of the road, most companies will offer to tow the vehicle to the nearest charging station or dealership. That’s a less than ideal situation for those who want to get back on the road as soon as possible. Fortunately, as EVs become more common on America’s highways, roadside assistance services are rising to meet demand and offering new solutions for low batteries.
Rather than requesting a tow, you can ask for charging trucks from many companies these days. AAA, one of the largest motor clubs in the U.S., is now offering mobile electric vehicle charging in 15 cities across the country. The mobile charging service comes at no additional cost to AAA members and AAA is hoping to expand to more cities as demand grows. AAA also offers trip-planning apps to help drivers find chargers along their routes and is installing charging stations at many of their branch office locations.
Charging as a Service
A major player in the mobile vehicle charging game is SparkCharge. A success on Shark Tank, the charging-as-a-service company offers an app that allows drivers to schedule a charge, no matter where they are parked, and sells their DC fast charger, the SparkCharge Roadie, to companies looking for innovative ways to power their electric fleets. SparkCharge has even partnered with towing companies in San Francisco and Los Angeles to get more power out to EV drivers.
Roadside Assistance from Car Makers
Vehicle manufacturers also offer roadside assistance for their cars. Check the warranties and agreements for your vehicle and always consult your vehicle’s manual to learn what options and solutions might work best for you.
- Tesla provides roadside assistance for their drivers (but be warned - help with a dead battery will cost extra).
- Nissan offers out-of-charge service for their LEAF vehicles for up to 36 months.
- Some companies, like Chevrolet, partner with OnStar to help EV drivers keep track of their battery range and come to the rescue if plans go awry.
- Audi will dispatch a mobile charging vehicle to give their vehicles enough power to make it to a charging station within 10 miles. If there isn’t a charging station close enough, drivers can elect to have their vehicle towed to an Audi dealership or another location within 100 miles to recharge.
- BMW offers roadside assistance coverage for 4 years (6 years for certified pre-owned vehicles). Their vehicles also come with 2 years of complimentary 30-minute charging sessions at Electrify America’s fast charging stations.
- Hyundai includes 5 years of roadside assistance with every new vehicle, including towing to the nearest Hyundai dealership or charging point.
- Rivian offers roadside assistance for repairs covered under their vehicle warranty, for 5 years or 60,000 miles, whichever comes first. They also offer assistance for non-warranty repairs, at the owner’s expense.
- Ford also offers roadside assistance for the first 5 years or 60,000 miles, and will tow your vehicle to the nearest charging station, Ford dealership, or your home (if your home is within 50 miles).
Fortunately, EV drivers aren’t likely to need roadside assistance due to a drained battery. Less than 4% of EV breakdowns are due to an empty battery. You’re much more likely to need help with a flat tire. With expanding access to portable fast chargers, range anxiety will soon be a thing of the past. Regardless of your problem, you should have no trouble getting roadside assistance for your EV.
Written by River James, a writer, editor, and researcher based in San Diego, California. For her personal thoughts and musings, check out her Substack.