The AA strengthens its support for businesses with latest breakthrough to rescue EVs
In the past 12 months alone, the number of electric vehicles on the road has increased by more than 300%*, and as a result of this, the AA continues to experience an escalating number of EV related callouts. In response, the organisation has invested heavily into extensive research and development to provide industry-leading support to drivers – and it’s now the only UK roadside assistance provider to have rolled out EV support capability across its entire fleet. From charge point support to dedicated EV insurance, businesses can rest assured knowing that the AA is right behind them whenever they need its services.
As part of its offering, the AA is proud to operate the largest trained group of EV Patrols across Europe, with most set to be qualified to the equivalent of the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) Level Two by the end of 2021. In addition to this, a third of its Prestige Network is EV capable and the business continues to invest to ensure that this number increases further.
As the UK embarks on the journey to 2030, the AA is keeping ahead of the electrification curve. Inventors at the AA’s research and development department have recently rolled out a game-changing innovation called the ‘Freewheeling Hub’, which has already transformed the breakdown service for thousands of fleet drivers and in addition to this, has also delivered several environmental benefits.
The ‘Freewheeling Hub’ provides an innovative solution for AA Patrols to safely tow vehicles, such as electric vehicles and 4x4s, which normally cannot be ‘lifted’ and towed on two wheels. This will ensure that drivers feel confident, knowing that their cars are being treated with the utmost care and attention.
The Freewheeling Hub invention is now being used nationwide in all AA Patrol vans, which will result in shorter waiting times and reduced CO2 emissions for all breakdown recoveries, as their vans can now be used to tow more cars, freeing up large recovery trucks for complex breakdowns involving heavier or more damaged vehicles.
Previously, it was not possible to tow some vehicles with seized brakes, failed wheel bearings or electric handbrakes, as well as 4x4s and many electric vehicles. Some manufacturers even recommend that you should not tow an EV, as the car's motor is always mechanically connected to the wheels and therefore does not have a true 'neutral' gear.
AA chief engineer Steve Ives, who has worked at the AA for more than 40 years, was determined to find a solution. He came up with the idea of the ‘Freewheeling Hub’, which allows Patrols to tow EVs, rather than having to wait for a flatbed recovery vehicle. Simple, yet effective, the innovation reduces any potential delays for customers and gets them on their way sooner, making recoveries even more efficient.
Steve commented: “I love the challenge of coming up with creative solutions to overcome seemingly impossible situations. The ‘Freewheeling Hub’ originally started off as a wooden prototype, but after significant research, development and investment, has been put into full production with our partners AE Oscroft.
“Already, the innovation is proving to be incredibly valuable to Patrols nationwide. More importantly, it helps drivers to get back onto the road quickly and safely – a key corporate priority.”
The Freewheeling Hub works in conjunction with the AA’s Multi-Fit Wheel and new heavy-duty Multi-Fit Wheel created for larger vehicles, enabling Patrols to fit temporary spare wheels onto almost any vehicle. It has its own heavy-duty high-speed bearing, which sees the wheel turn independently from the car.
Each solution proves critical, as many cars don’t come with a spare wheel as standard. More often than not, this means that they must be recovered to fit new tyres. In the case of a car with two punctured tyres and no spare, Patrols are now equipped with two Multi-Fit spare wheels, one being part of the new Freewheeling Hub kit, which will allow them to provide a repair solution where previously a recovery would have been required.
The Freewheeling Hub will also enable the movement of vehicles in confined spaces, which normally can’t be reached by larger recovery vehicles.
Gavin Franks, director of business services at the AA, added: “The ‘Freewheeling Hub’ is a complete game-changer when it comes to the recovery of EVs and SUVs. It’s already making a real difference to drivers of these vehicles at the point of breakdown compared to our competitors. Importantly, as we progress on the journey to 2030, our innovation keeps us ahead of the electrification curve. We’ve continued to invest in the EV space and we now support more than 5,000 EV charge points nationwide.”
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*An increase of 343.7% from December 2019, to December 2020. SMMT vehicle data, December 2020 - https://www.smmt.co.uk/vehicle-data/car-registrations/