One of the most frequently aired concerns when discussing electric vehicles (EVs) is what happens when you run out of juice. Of course the obvious answer is that you break down, just like with a normal car - but with some forethought, you're not likely to let that happen. Should the unthinkable happen, however, some news from Japan may bring a little comfort to existing and prospective EV owners. The Japan Automobile Federation (JAF) and Nissan have just started testing a roadside service vehicle that's equipped with a charger to assist EVs.

Improvements in battery technology are continually pushing the EV range envelope, so that running flat should become less and less of a concern as the technology develops. Nevertheless, in common with more familiar methods of vehicular transportation, roadside assistance strategies for EVs are at least as important as ensuring an adequate charging support infrastructure.

To that end, a new prototype breakdown truck has been developed by Nissan - makers of the LEAF electric car - and will be operated for the duration of the trial from JAF's Kanagawa branch office. EV assistance will now form part of its service menu for the remainder of the year, and it is hoped that this important first step towards promoting real-world solutions for EV breakdown assistance will help boost confidence in electric vehicle technology.

"JAF has been working on ways to create an environment where motorists can drive EVs with the assurance that assistance is available and to support the adoption of environmentally-friendly EVs as part of our social contribution activities," said JAF's Masakazu Kume. "Our participation in this trial operation is one of these activities. We have already prepared insulated gloves and goggles for our service vehicle staff to assist EVs. We will actively respond to requests from EV motorists as more and more EVs hit the road."

Staff from JAF have already been given roadside assistance training using a Nissan LEAF at the Nissan Education Center, and the Federation has also initiated related roadside assistance training throughout Japan using vehicles from other manufacturers.

In a somewhat similar project, emergency response crews in the U.S. are currently learning how to handle EVs that have been involved in accidents.