‘Make This a Federal Offense’: Anti-Electric Vehicle Attacks Are Sweeping the Nation

By: Georgia | Last updated: Jul 12, 2024

In Philadelphia, a new EV owner’s excitement turned sour as they encountered a rampant issue: vandalism at electric vehicle charging stations. 

The target? Expensive copper wiring. As one disheartened motorist shared on Reddit, “I know this has been happening for a while, but as a new EV owner in Philadelphia, this sucks.”

EV Owners Demand Action

The frustration in the EV community is palpable. Picture this: you pull into a station, only to find it as useless as a gas station without pumps. 

Advertisement
An electric car plugged into a charging station in a brightly lit indoor parking garage

Source: Michael Fousert/Unsplash

“They need to make this a federal offense,” one commenter expressed, capturing the sentiment of many who face these disruptions daily.

Advertisement

Not Just Petty Theft—A National Issue

What’s happening at these stations isn’t just frustrating; it’s part of a bigger picture affecting national transportation infrastructure.

Advertisement
Close-up of a public electric vehicle charging station with blue and gray charging handles

Source: Sophie Jonas/Unsplash

As one commenter put it, “This is nothing short of an attack on America’s critical transportation infrastructure.” The call for action? Severe felony charges for these acts of vandalism.

A Widespread Problem: Vandalism Across Cities

The issue isn’t isolated. Several cities report over half of their public EV charging stations have been hit repeatedly.

Advertisement
Blue EnBW electric vehicle charging station in an outdoor parking lot with cars and trucks in the background

Source: Sophie Jonas/Unsplash

This widespread destruction underlines the gravity of the situation, extending far beyond isolated incidents.

EV-Based Vandalism Is a Worldwide Issue

Attacks against electric infrastructure has swept the States, from Seattle to Las Vegas to Philadelphia. However, anti-electric tactics are a global phenomenon that has gained traction over recent years.

Advertisement
An electric vehicle station with German text on it is against the backdrop of a roadside.

Source: Akrebs60/Pixabay

In 2021, vandals in Munich, Germany, stuffed raw minced meat into connectors that had to be replaced. This April, drivers in Australia have been fined $60,000 for parking in electric vehicle makes in parking lots.

The Price of Copper Is at a Record High

For thieves looking to make quick money, stealing copper seems more attractive than ever. The price of copper is currently $5.20 a pound, which is up 25% from a year ago.

Several coils of copper wiring bound together.

Source: Disign/Pixabay

In May, the price of copper had not been so high since last July. With charging stations so easily accessible and so much many to be made from selling on stolen copper, is it any surprise that this surge is taking place?

Advertisement

Wire Theft Is Nothing New but the Target Has Changed

From phone lines to train-track cables, wire theft has always been an issue. Wire theft is a significant burden on taxpayers but EV charging stations are simply the latest target.

A pair of white hands are tinkering with some wiring on a background of red machinery. Red and black wires run in front of the pair of hands.

Source: Nina Mercado/Unsplash

Since 2021, wire theft has cost taxpayers $1.5 million for public property alone, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). For the city of Minneapolis, 2023 began with a spike in copper theft from streetlights and ended with EV charger vandalism.

Advertisement

Criminals May Not Be Making Quick Cash from Copper

EV charger vandalism might seem lucrative, but in reality, there is little money to be made off charging stations. It is difficult to extract the little copper that is actually inside the wires.

A grey and black electric vehicle charger head is plugged into the charger station. There is a light blue square around the charger port.

Source: Sophie Jonas/Unsplash

Houston’s Sergeant Robert Carson estimated that a thief would only make between $15 and $20 from taking a single cable to a scrap yard. This is why vandals “hit hard” according to Carson and wreck multiple charging stations in one hit.

Advertisement

Why Electric Vehicle Stations?

If EV charging stations are just a new target for old crimes, why are they getting the brunt of wire thefts now?

There are two white electric vehicle charging stations with light green borders around the screens and ports. Behind the stations is a black car.

Source: WCBS880/X

EV charging stations are usually in accessible and convenient public locations such as college campuses, shopping centres, and public parks. Although busy in the day, these areas are often empty at night, the perfect time for a scalper to strike.

Advertisement

Vandal Motives: Money or Malice?

Sometimes, the vandals are after the precious metals, like copper, within the chargers. 

Close-up of coiled copper wire, highlighting its shiny metallic surface

Source: Ra Dragon/Unsplash

But often, there’s a darker motive—some acts are politically charged, making anti-environmental statements through destruction.

Advertisement

Intentional Charger Blockage

Some gas-powered vehicle drivers take the conflict on the road by intentionally blocking EV chargers, a spiteful move that leaves EV owners stranded and frustrated.

Line of Tesla Superchargers at a roadside station with clear sky and traffic signs

Source: J Dean/Unsplash

The clash between traditional and electric vehicles is playing out in parking lots across the country.

Advertisement

EV Drivers Are Calling Out Deliberate EV Charger Blockages

One driver in Seattle said “nine times out of ten, a non-EV takes the EV parking spot, it’s a giant truck. Hate these guys”. Trucks intentionally blocking EV charging stations is happening across the world, with a similar situation happening in New Zealand.

A blue pickup true is in front of an EV charging station but is not plugged in.

Source: QADawg91/Reddit

Alongside charging station vandalism and other strategies, some are out to make sure people know they are not happy to share the road with EV drivers.

Advertisement

Toxic Tactics: More Than Just Blocking

The hostility escalates with some drivers resorting to ‘coal-rolling’ EVs.

A close-up view of a white EV charging plug connected to the charging port of a white electric vehicle

Source: Possessed Photography/Unsplash

This is when they deliberately blast dense, toxic exhaust fumes at electric vehicles, and even pedestrians and cyclists, showing disdain for both environmental concerns and public health.

Advertisement

Coal-rolling is dangerous and humiliating for its targets (which are increasingly electric vehicles). Last June, an EV driver was stuck behind three pickup trucks and was blasted with exhaust fumes.

A flame is coming out of the exhaust of a red car.

Source: Oscar Sutton/Unsplash

It also undermines environmental laws. Ebay was fined nearly $2 billion for allegedly hosting the sale of over 343,000 coal-rolling devices, breaking the Clean Air Act.  These devices are intended to modify diesel engines to emit sooty exhaust fumes.

Advertisement

EV Vandalism Could Impact State Environmental Goals

EV charging station vandalism is not only inconvenient and costly for local government, but also a spanner in the works to reach renewable energy targets.

A broken down BP electric vehicle charging station. Yellow and black caution tape surrounds the station.

Source: Christ Whitmer/X

Washington state has a goal to provide fast-charging EV charging stations every 50 miles across its road system. This vandalism leaves newly installed infrastructure unusable and costing the pubic millions. The WSDOT has said that “drivers and taxpayers are the ones being ultimately harmed by these crimes”.

Advertisement

Electric Vehicles Are a New Culture War Battleground

From the vandalism of charging stations and becoming the target of coal-rolling, EVs are now the latest symbol of environmental culture wars. The debate around the part EVs will play in the future plays out in the streets and the White House alike.

The rear of a white electric car is shown with an electric charger is in the charging port. The charger head is at the end of a bright orange cable.

Source: Mike Bird/Pexels

In Michigan, the country’s automotive core, Trump accused President Biden of wanting to “decimate” the industry by pushing for two-thirds of US car sales to be electric by 2032.

Advertisement

Anti-Electric Attacks Are A Worldwide Issue

Attacks against electric infrastructure has swept the States, from Seattle to Las Vegas to Philadelphia. However, anti-electric tactics are a global phenomenon that has gained traction over recent years.

An electric vehicle station with German text on it is against the backdrop of a roadside.

Source: Akrebs60/Pixabay

In 2021, vandals in Munich, Germany, stuffed raw minced meat into connectors that had to be replaced. This April, drivers in Australia have been fined $60,000 for parking in electric vehicle makes in parking lots.

Advertisement

The Irony of EV Benefits Overlooked

Amidst these tensions, it’s ironic to note the benefits of going electric. 

An electric vehicle charging cable with a blue cord and Mennekes plug connected to a gray car's charging port

Source: Ernest Ojeh/Unsplash

EVs emit roughly half the planet-warming pollutants of gas cars and tend to be cheaper in the long run, thanks to lower fuel costs and tax credits.

Advertisement

Maintenance and Cost

Supporters of electric vehicles argue that they are not just good for the planet; they’re also easier on the wallet long-term. 

A green painted symbol on pavement showing an electric vehicle and a plug, designating an EV parking and charging spot

Source: Michael Marais/Unsplash

They claim that EVs generally require less maintenance than their fossil fuel counterparts, translating to savings over the vehicle’s lifetime.

Advertisement

An Electric Car Can Save Drivers Money Over Time

Despite the disadvantages of electric vehicles caused by vandalism, there is a chance they can savers motorists up to thousands of dollars. The Argonne National Laboratory found that drivers will save from having an electric vehicle, no matter where you live in the country.

A series of EV charging stations from different brands in including BMW and Hyundai.

Source: HookyungLee/Pixabay

Drivers who will benefit the most will be those in areas with high gas prices, low electricity prices, where drivers need to go longer distances using less efficient vehicles.

Advertisement

Home Charging: The Safer, Cheaper Alternative

One seasoned EV user highlighted the advantages of home charging: safer, cheaper, and devoid of vandalism risks.

A woman in a winter outfit plugging a black electric car charger into a residential charging unit next to a brick house

Source: zaptec/Unsplash

While not accessible for everyone currently, the future of home charging looks promising.

Advertisement

Residents Report Higher Satisfaction with Home Charging Their Electric Vehicles

People feel the benefits of charging their electric vehicles at home more, according to a study conducted by J.D. Power.  The study found that home charging was more satisfying than public charging stations, with charging speed playing a vital role.

An EV home charger is shown outside the front door of a house. The front door is white with a brick column beside it. To the right you can see the side of the hood and the wing mirror of a black car.

Source: Lifehacker/X

With a lower risk of vandalism and a more convenient option for those with a driveway, the executive director of J.D. Power has called for the expansion of residential charging.

Advertisement

Future Bright for EV Charging Accessibility

The landscape of EV charging is set to improve, promising more accessible options for all. 

Tesla Superchargers lit with red lighting in a nighttime parking lot setting, with electric cars parked and charging

Source: Stephen Mease/Unsplash

As infrastructure grows, the hope is that incidents of vandalism will decrease, making electric vehicle ownership smoother and more appealing.

Advertisement

A Call to Action

As EV owners and enthusiasts call for more stringent penalties for vandals, the broader community remains hopeful.

Close-up view of a charging cable connected to a modern electric car's illuminated blue charging socket

Source: CHUTTERSNAP/Unsplash

Efforts to expand and secure charging infrastructure are crucial in supporting the shift towards sustainable transportation options.

Advertisement

EV Charger Providers Are Responding to the Vandalism Outbreak

When provided by private companies, whether EV charging stations are maintained after vandalism is often up to the companies themselves. Some EV charger providers are starting to feel the frustration of recurring attacks.

A series of Tesla EV charging stations can be seen. The charging station at the front has plastic clingfilm wrapped around the plug.

Source: Volzi/Pixabay

Electrify America has refused to repair damaged chargers until a solution is found to prevent future attacks. However, Tesla has taken a different approach by replacing all cables and getting vandalized Supercharger stations back online in under 12 hours.

Advertisement

The Government Will Help to Fund the Expansion of EV Infrastructure

To expand EV infrastructure (which will weaken the effect of charger vandalism) the Biden-Harris administration announced new funding for electric charging stations in urban and rural communities.

A black car is connected to a Tesla charging station. In the background is some grass by the sidewalk and a lake on the edge of a forest.

Source: Blomst/Pixabay

The Federal Highway Administration will provide a total of $1.3 billion to state, regional, Tribal, and local governments to help introduce electric vehicle infrastructure. The Joint Office says this is “the largest single grant funding opportunity for EV charging in the nation’s history”.

Advertisement