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Charging Cable Thefts Becoming New Obstacle For EV Adoption

by | June 13, 2024

Charging cable thefts are rapidly becoming a new obstacle for mass EV adoption and are also becoming a major issue for EV owners

FLO home charger charging

Rising thefts of charging cables are rapidly becoming a problem for EV charging station providers and customers

Electrification is rapidly becoming a driving force for EV sales as automakers prepare to adapt their sales plans to a future where EVs will play a larger role in vehicle sales. Recently, some automakers have been forced to adjust their sales plans as the segment begins to hit speed bumps both in EV demand and the practical realities of having an all-EV lineup.

However, another factor has also quietly been in play and has slowly risen to become a major problem in the quest for broader EV adoption, the theft of charging cables. The theft of these cables is costing charging station providers massive amounts of money and could become a bigger threat if action is not taken to address the problem.

Thieves are after precious metals

Thieves are after the copper wiring hidden deep in the cables

The thefts are well-planned and often take place in the dead of night. The Associated Press highlighted a recent theft that took place on April 2nd in Seattle with two thieves arriving in a small truck at 2 a.m. The thieves targeted charging stations outside of a shopping center and quickly went to work with bolt cutters to steal the cables. Their theft was swift with the act being done in just under 2 1/2 minutes before anyone noticed.

This scene is part of a broader pattern and has played out at charging stations across the country. The thieves in these instances are after the copper wiring that’s hidden deep inside the cable. Copper prices have surged to record highs in recent years and this has prompted an increase in thefts of not only charging cables but also copper water pipes from abandoned houses and other structures which has played a role in creating rampant water leaks in the City of Detroit. These increases are noticeable when you look at the record $5.20/lb price that copper currently goes for when taken in for scrap. That’s a gain of 25% and part of this increase is fueled by the EV industry.

Anthony Lambkin, Electrify America’s vice president of operations had this to say when asked about the rise in cable thefts. “We’re enabling people to get to work, to take their kids to school, get to medical appointments,” Lambkin said. “So to have an entire station that’s offline is pretty impactful to our customers.”

In the case of cable thefts, the removal of these cables can disable entire charging stations which forces EV owners to search for another charging station. This can be dangerous if the EV has an extremely low amount of charge and could leave owners stranded when their EV reaches 0 percent charge while they are trying to find another station to charge at. The cables themselves have little amounts of copper in them so thieves are stealing mutliple cables to try and build up enough quantity of the material to sell to a scrap yard with a thief potentially standing to make over $400 if they get enough copper out of the stolen cables.  

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 What can be done to stop these thefts?

Providers and law enforcement are stepping up efforts to try and stop these thefts from growing further

With broken-down stations potentially fueling increasing hesitation from buyers towards EV adoption, it makes you wonder what the industry is doing to try and curtail these thefts to help maintain easy accessibility to a charging station?

The answer is a mixed bag but many charging station providers are adding more security cameras to the stations themselves to try and catch thieves in the act which can help give law enforcement tools needed to catch them especially if the cameras catch a license plate or any other key information about the suspects or a vehicle.

Law enforcement is also visiting metal recyclers to look for stolen metal and the Recycled Metals Association is also issuing scrap theft alerts to recyclers to encourage them to be on the look out for suspicious materials and suspected thieves. However, spotting suspicious metal can be difficult for a metal recycling plant since thieves often burn all of the insulation material off the metal to help avoid raising suspicion. 



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