Thieves more and more are targeting copper-rich cables at electric vehicle charging stations

Category: (Self-Study) Top Stories


Hide Storyline

Thieves have increasingly targeted EV charging stations, intent on stealing the cables, which contain highly conductive copper wiring. The price of copper is nearing a record high on global markets, which means that criminals stand to reap rising amounts of cash by selling the material.

The clipped cables often disable entire stations, forcing EV owners who are low on power to search nervously for a working charger. For people with no charging options at home, the predicament can be exasperating and stressful.

Broken-down chargers have emerged as the latest obstacle for America’s automakers in their strenuous drive to convert more Americans to EV buyers despite widespread public anxiety about a scarcity of charging stations.

Two years ago, according to Electrify America, which runs the nation’s second-largest network of direct-current fast chargers, it might experience a cable cut perhaps every six months at one of its 968 charging stations, with 4,400 plugs nationwide. Through May this year, the figure reached over 100—more than in all of last year.

“We have folks that don’t have home charging, that are relying exclusively on our network to use their EVs to take their kids to school or get to work or get to medical appointments,” said Anthony Lambkin, Electrify America’s vice president of operations. “And so, it’s very impactful when a whole station is down due to vandalism.”

Stations run by Tesla, which operates the nation’s largest fast-charging network, have been hit by thieves in Seattle, Oakland, and Houston.

Until more than a month ago, police in Houston hadn’t seen any cable thefts. Then one cable was stolen from a charger at a gas station. The city has now recorded eight or nine such thefts. That’s according to Sgt. Robert Carson, who leads a police metal theft unit. In one case, thieves swiped 18 of 19 cords at a Tesla station.

“This is a new trend for us down here,” Carson said.

Roy Manuel, an Uber driver who normally recharges his Tesla at the Houston station hit by thieves, said he fears being unable to do so because of stolen cables.

This article was provided by The Associated Press.


Hide Script

[Two men cut cables at an Electrify America charging station and load them into a truck]

Anthony Lambkin (interview): “We, unfortunately, have seen a little bit of an uptick in vandalism of late. So, vandalism in this sense is we’re seeing our cables being cut at specific locations and leaving the entire site really inoperable and requiring us to rapidly rush out the replace cables at quite an expense.”

[A person cuts a cable at an Electrify America charging station]

Anthony Lambkin (interview): “In the last, say, two years ago, we would see maybe a cut cable once every six months. We’re seeing repeated instances on a monthly basis.”

[The men cut more cables and transport them to the truck]

[An Electrify America charging station]

Anthony Lambkin (interview): “And again, keep in mind we have folks that don’t have home charging, that are relying exclusively on our network to use their EVs, again to take their kids to school or get to work or get to medical appointments. And so, it’s very impactful when a whole station is down due to vandalism.”

[Tesla sedans as seen through a charging station]

[Roy Manuel finishes charging his Tesla]

Roy Manuel (interview): “For most people, if you came here and you couldn’t charge here for whatever reason, if they were stolen, then you could go to another one. But again, if they’re vandalizing the stations, then who knows? That one could be hit, too.”

[A Tesla being charged]

[Priyanka Surath walks to a grocery store while her car is charging]

Priyanka Surath (interview): “Vandalizing happens everywhere, so I think it’s a thing we have to get used to. But if I didn’t have it here, I have one five miles away, so I would just go over there.”

[Houston police patrol vehicles]

Sgt. Robert Carson (interview): “To be honest, this is a new trend for us down here. So once that trend began, once we noticed it, when the very first one happened, I personally went out to the scene.”

[A charging cable at the Electrify America station]

Sgt. Robert Carson (interview): “I think you can probably get between $15 and $20 per cable. The cables are not that long. You’re talking 7 or 8 foot. And once you strip all the insulation off, there’s not that much copper in them.”

[The EA station, including security cameras and charging nozzles]

Sgt. Robert Carson (interview): “If you see a vehicle that should not be there, a gas-operated vehicle parked in an electric vehicle spot, you probably need to call somebody. They’re not charging.”

[A Houston PD car on the move]

This script was provided by The Associated Press.