Electric car chargers out of action as thieves cut cables

Drivers deterred from purchasing an electric car by range anxiety and high list prices can now add another item to their list of worries: public chargers having their cables stolen.

Since November last year, Instavolt, the UK’s largest operator of rapid chargers, has had 174 cables stolen from 27 of its sites in Yorkshire and the Midlands. With each cable costing at least £1000, it’s an expensive problem – although the company says it’s more concerned about the damage the thefts are doing to public confidence in EVs.

“These thefts are extremely frustrating for our customers and for us,” said Instavolt CEO Delvin Lane. “The EV revolution is already under way, with more than one million EVs on the road [in the UK]. Our mission is to make EV charging as easy as possible, and reliability is one of our core values.”

Lane said thieves strike at all hours of the day and night and will even return to the same site to attack it again – on one occasion as soon as eight hours after repairs had been made.

Lane said organised criminals are stealing the cables for their copper, which he believes they sell to illegal scrap dealers. However, he pointed out: “The cable isn’t a solid copper bar, it’s just lengths of thin wire that takes ages to extract. It’s a misconception that the copper brings real financial gain.”

To combat the thieves, Instavolt is installing CCTV cameras at each of its sites, operating roaming patrols, using security solution Smartwater to tag its cables and applying smart tracking devices to them. “We’re hoping the devices will take us straight to the scrap dealers handling the cables,” said Lane.

Meanwhile, he’s liaising with the police, who are apparently building a “body of evidence”. “With their help, we’re well on the way to tracking down the criminals,” he said.

Gridserve is also a victim. A spokesman for the company said: “Gridserve takes incidents of vandalism and theft very seriously and works closely with relevant authorities when they do occur. We act as quickly as possible to ensure any damaged chargers are back online in a timely manner. We’re also investigating additional anti-theft measures.”

Others include BP Pulse and Osprey. Their sites in Newark were struck by cable thieves in November last year, and other cable thefts have been reported in Norwich and Rotherham.

Wary of alarming potential EV buyers and of triggering copycat thefts, ChargeUK, the trade association for the charger industry, told Autocar it is concentrating its efforts on solving the problem with the help of the Home Office and a new dedicated police unit.

New CEO Vicky Read said: “Some members have been affected by vandalism at their sites. We have worked with the police and relevant authorities, including government, where appropriate to help deter this crime and apprehend those responsible.”

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