Protect Your EV Charging Station from Vandals

Don’t let a copper caper keep EV customers from recharging.

Protect Your EV Charging Station from Vandals

April 2024   minute read

By: Pat Pape

When Jenna Hauss arrived at her job at One Generation, a Los Angeles-area nonprofit, everything seemed normal. The eight-acre campus was starting to hum with employees tending to the facility’s food bank and greeting clients who use the nonprofit’s intergenerational daycare centers. But then a worker came to her with bad news. Each of the site’s 40 EV charging ports had been vandalized overnight.

Someone broke through the fence surrounding the campus, cut the charging cables and made off with the copper inside. “We got photos of the thief on video, but he was wearing a mask” said Hauss, CEO of One Generation. “It was April 2022, and at that time, everyone was wearing a mask. The thief didn’t get Covid, but he did get a lot of copper.”

The incident was reported to law enforcement, and the facility had insurance to underwrite the pricey repairs. But the evildoer was never apprehended. “We now have a locked steel cage around each charging station,” she said. “We unlock them during business hours, so employees and clients have access to them. But we have to lock them up every night. It’s frustrating.”

The crime at One Generation is shocking, but not unusual. As the number of EV charging stations grows, so does vandalism and other damage. According to a 2023 U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center report, the United States has approximately 50,000 public EV charging stations, for a total of nearly 130,000 individual charging ports. The Sacramento-based Electric Vehicle Charging Association notes that more than 20% of U.S. charging stations have experienced some form of vandalism, ranging from copper theft to tampering with the electrical components to short circuiting the charger.

EV station vandalism isn’t limited to the United States or to copper thieves. German stations have reported similar problems, including one Munich facility where minced meat was stuffed into the connector. However, vanishing cables are not a problem across the pond. European charging stations have no attached cables as European EV owners purchase and travel with their own portable cables.

Copper for Pennies

Bill Ferro is president of EVSession, a Charlotte, North Carolina, technology company that consolidates information on the availability of direct current fast charging stations nationwide and distributes it to EV drivers and fleet managers to help them make travel plans. Although copper thieves sell their ill-gotten goods to recyclers and scrap dealers, he said no one is getting rich robbing charging stations.

“We track the industry very closely, and unfortunately, these incidents are too common,” Ferro said. “With the right tools, it takes only a couple of minutes to cut the cable. But no one is getting rich selling cables. Copper goes for $3-5 per kilogram, and there are about 2 pounds of wire in a cable. A thief is not going to receive full price. They’ll have to sell it for half of what it’s worth, so vandals aren’t making a lot of money.”

Another reason for charging station damage has been dubbed “Green Backlash.”

Another reason for charging station damage has been dubbed “Green Backlash.”

“It’s the same twisted thought process that causes people to ICE the charging station [meaning block it with an internal combustion engine vehicles] or to key a Tesla as they walk by,” Ferro said. “I can’t explain the thought process, but typically those people are afraid of change in some way.”

In addition to intentional vandalism, there are mishaps that can damage charging stations, such as drivers accidentally backing into a charger. “They don’t harm the station they’re using. It’s usually the one next to it.” said Greg Ricchiuti, technical leader of platform integration at Techniche in Carlsbad, California, a global software company supporting the reliable operation of charging networks.

“With the right tools, it takes only a couple of minutes to cut the cable.”

Plus, damage can occur due to user frustration when drivers attempt to recharge and the equipment doesn’t function properly. “People get frustrated, and they may pull out the connector and drive away,” he said. “That’s where you see a lot of the connectors hitting the ground and cracking.”

Today, 90% of public chargers are Level 2 chargers, also called slow chargers, and are used for home, workplace and public charging.

“With lower-level chargers, the cable is your source of truth,” Ricchiuti said. Problems occur “if the cable isn’t long enough, if there are too many bends in it, if people have stepped on it or driven over it. …. With the newer chargers, we don’t see as much vandalism because they work.”

Don’t bury your charging equipment behind the convenience store.

Protect Your Station

EV recharging equipment is a big investment. According to Ricchiuti, a Level 2 charger for the home market can cost $300-500. A high-end commercial version can run $5,000. The cost of a newer, faster Level 3 charger starts at about $40,000, and installation can run $40,000-plus, depending on the site’s trenching and power requirements.

Various ideas have been floated about protecting EV charging equipment, such as installing retractable cables. Tesla has reportedly used a solar-powered, camera-equipped “MacGyver” robot to protect its own equipment, along with more traditional solutions such as visible surveillance cameras, bollards and steel cages. But when it comes to keeping chargers operational, Ferro believes the answer is “placement, lighting and security.”

“Don’t bury your charging equipment behind the convenience store,” he said. “Make sure it is well-lit, out in the open and in sight of the security cameras that are commonplace in convenience stores today.”

Ferro said that his favorite place to recharge his EV is a Tesla Super Charger at a Spinx outlet in Orangeburg, South Carolina. “It’s right in front of the store, well-lit and under a solar canopy,” he said. When circumstances require it, he’ll use a charger “buried behind a fast-food restaurant near the trash bins. I’ll go there during the daytime, but not after dark,” he said.

When convenience stores offer “a welcome, inviting space for drivers to spend 20-40 minutes charging their car, they will generate more traffic, more store revenue and more eyeballs to help with security,” he said. “To me, that’s really the best approach.”

More than 20% of U.S. charging stations have experienced some form of vandalism.

Planning for the Future

“We are still in the land-grab phase. People are working to get an anchor space, get sites installed and later move the chargers,” said Ricchiuti.

He advises retailers to plan carefully for charging installation. “Put them where power is available. You don’t want to trench cross the store parking lot or anywhere near the fuel tanks,” he said. “A lot of companies have battery-storage systems located near their chargers. They use solar panels to supplement the power available for charging sessions, making them less dependent on the grid. You don’t see as many convenience stores using solar panels yet, but some chains are already planning for them.”

“I strongly believe winners of the EV charging race over the next 5-7 years will be convenience stores,” Ferro said. “C-stores are usually staffed around the clock, and we can expect to see to see better placement of this equipment as more c-stores sign up for chargers.”

Pat Pape

Pat Pape

Pat Pape worked in the convenience store industry for more than 20 years before becoming a full-time writer. See more of her articles at

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