15 March 2021
Drivers of Electric Vehicles (EVs) and 4x4s are benefiting from the AA’s game-changing Freewheeling Hub, following nationwide roll-out to patrols.
The ‘freewheeling hub’ is a clever way for AA patrols to safely tow vehicles which normally cannot be ‘lifted’ and towed on two wheels. Patrols across the UK now have the technology and are fully trained, ensuring national coverage and giving drivers the confidence of knowing the AA is behind them.
It means fewer breakdown worries and shorter waiting times for drivers, as the innovative technology opens up a new way of rescuing stricken motorists. Previously it was not possible to tow some vehicles with seized brakes, failed wheel bearings or electric handbrakes, or 4x4s and many EVs. Some manufacturers recommend that you should not tow their EVs as the car's motor is always mechanically connected to the wheels and does not have a true 'neutral' gear.
But AA Chief Engineer Steve Ives, who has worked at the AA for 40 years, was determined to find a solution. He designed a ‘freewheeling hub’ that patrols can fix to the rear wheels of stricken vehicles, so that these can be towed rather than having to wait for a flatbed recovery vehicle; and whittled a wooden prototype to demonstrate.
Steve said: “I love the challenge of coming up with solutions to seemingly impossible situations. I worked on the concept for many hours in my shed at night and eventually crafted a wooden prototype. This has now been further developed and put into production with our partners AE Oscroft, and is working well.”
The freewheeling hub works in conjunction with the AA’s Multi-Fit wheel and new heavy-duty Multi-fit wheel for larger vehicles, enabling patrols to fit temporary spare wheels to almost any vehicle. It has its own heavy-duty high-speed bearing making the wheel turn independently from the car. The AA collaborated with presswork and prototyping specialist AE Oscroft to develop these solutions.
"This fantastic innovation is now helping to rescue customers more quickly than our competitors"
The innovations are crucial as 4x4s increasingly don’t have spare wheels as standard, so 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, so are able to provide a repair solution where previously a recovery would have been required.
The freewheeling hub also enables the movement of vehicles in confined spaces which cannot be reached by larger recovery vehicles.
James Hosking, Chief Operating Officer - Roadside, said: “We tasked the team to come up with a cleaner, safer, smarter solution to towing certain categories of vehicles. Our chief engineer took on the role of ‘Q’ in the fictional research and development in James Bond and invented the ingenious high-speed freewheeling hub.
“This fantastic innovation is now helping to rescue customers more quickly than our competitors. We have already seen an increase in interest for 4x4s and are likely to witness an electric vehicle revolution in the coming years. Our innovations keep us ahead of the game.”