SparkCharge wants to rescue stranded EV drivers.
SparkCharge, a leading provider of EV charging equipment, might have found the answer to stranded EV drivers who have run out of range before reaching their destination: portable roadside charging assistance. The company has teamed up with two towing companies - Atlas Towing of San Francisco, and G1 Towing of Los Angeles - to launch pilot programs in their respective markets to put the idea to the test.
Essentially, should an EV driver in either market run out of juice, he or she can phone the towing company and someone will be dispatched to their location with one of SparkCharge's modular portable chargers.
Those portable chargers use battery modules packed with 18650 cylindrical lithium-ion battery cells - the same as Tesla has used on cars like the Model S and Model X since 2013 - each of which stores a total of 3.5 kWh of charge (3.2 kWh usable). They can be stacked, up to five modules on one charger, for more juice if needed; SparkCharge says that five modules together can carry enough energy to add up to 75 miles of driving range, which is more than enough to get an EV driver un-stranded.
For now, SparkCharge's portable chargers only offer a CHAdeMO plug, putting out 20 kW of DC power, but a CCS Combo plug option is on the way.
The big advantage with this roadside assistance model is, of course, cost; without a portable charging system, EV drivers have little recourse but to call for a tow if they run out of juice on the road. Towing is expensive, and vastly more complicated than simply plugging in a portable battery charger and waiting a bit.
And when we say "a bit," we mean it; according to SparkCharge, the company's portable chargers are capable of replenishing roughly a mile of range per minute. If you're just a short, 10-mile drive from the nearest charging station, that's 10 minutes of waiting - about as much time as it takes to hitch a car and load it onto a flatbed trailer. Not bad.