Copper Theft Surge Disrupts EV Charging Stations Nationwide

Despite the significant disruption to EV owners, thieves are not making large sums from stealing charger cables.


Thieves targeting EV charging stations for their copper-laden cables are causing widespread disruptions, forcing drivers to scramble for operational chargers and hindering automakers' efforts to transition more Americans to EVs. The rising price of copper, near record highs on global markets, is driving these thefts.

The thefts have severe repercussions. Stolen cables often disable entire charging stations, leaving EV owners stranded and desperate for a working charger. For drivers, the frustration is palpable.

"If my battery was really low, I'd have quite an issue with operating my vehicle," Roy Manuel, an Uber driver in Houston, where thefts have increased, told the Associated Press. "I might even need a tow truck."

The increase in cable thefts is becoming a significant obstacle for automakers like Ford, General Motors and Stellantis, which have invested heavily in the shift to EVs. Automakers aim to reduce carbon emissions, but public anxiety about the availability and reliability of charging infrastructure remains high. This issue is exacerbated by the thefts, as about 4 in 10 U.S. adults already worry about finding nearby charging stations or the time it takes to charge EVs.

According to Electrify America, the nation's second-largest network of direct-current fast chargers, cable thefts have surged. Two years ago, a cable might be cut once every six months at their 968 charging stations. Through May this year, the number reached 129 incidents.

"We're enabling people to get to work, to take their kids to school, get to medical appointments," Anthony Lambkin, Electrify America's vice president of operations, told the Associated Press. "So to have an entire station that's offline is pretty impactful to our customers."

The issue is widespread. Companies like Flo and EVgo report similar increases in thefts, with hotspots in cities like Seattle, Houston and Oakland. In Houston alone, police have recorded eight or nine thefts this year, up from none the previous year.

"They're not just taking one," Sgt. Robert Carson of Houston's police metal-theft unit told the Associated Press. "When they're hit, they're hit pretty hard."

Despite the significant disruption to EV owners, thieves are not making large sums from these thefts. The copper in the cables is difficult to extract, and a single cable might fetch only $15 to $20 at a scrap yard. Yet, the cumulative impact is substantial. Replacing a single cable can cost charging companies around $1,000.

To combat the thefts, companies are installing more security cameras and working with law enforcement. Police are visiting recycling centers to trace stolen metals.

"We'd like to get them stopped," said Carson, "and then let the court system do what they're supposed to do."

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