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Electric car charging cable theft could be the next car crime wave

An increase in thefts of charging cables for electric and plug-in hybrid cars is the number one concern for owners...

Honda E goodbye

Thieves are stealing increasing numbers of electric vehicle (EV) charging cables so they can cash in on their scrap value or sell them online.

There has been a recent rise in reports of thefts of cables for EVs and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), including from rubbish collection company divert.co.uk. The firm said they are being stolen then sold to scrap metal dealers because they contain copper. 

“Car chargers are particularly appealing to thieves because they can be sold for up to £200 and they are selling them everywhere – eBay, Facebook, and to dodgy scrap dealers,” says divert.co.uk spokesman Mark Hall. “They can be pretty costly and inconvenient for you to replace, so it’s best to keep it locked away from the crooks.”

LT BMW 530e removing charging cable from boot

The values of many metals have risen sharply, and that has led to a big increase in the number of catalytic converter thefts from hybrid cars. One insurer, Zurich, said there had been a 450% rise in cases in the past two years.

Now it appears that EV and PHEV cables could be the next hot item for thieves –potentially leaving thousands of drivers stranded without the means to charge up their cars. 

AA President Edmund King puts the increase in thefts down to rise in demand for secondhand cables, saying: “There is growing concern that the theft of charging cables could become a new problem to run alongside catalytic converter theft. However, rather than sending them for scrap, there seems to be a growing used cable market through online sites.”

According to the AA, damage or theft to charging cables is the biggest security concern drivers have when it comes to owning an EV. More than two-thirds (69%) of 15,500 licence holders polled by the AA said they are worried about having charging leads tampered with or stolen when they are connected to public charging points.

Public charging electric car

Whatever the reason for the thefts, the worry is that they could rise as demand for charging cables increases. There are currently more than 500,000 EVs and PHEVs in the UK, according to the latest figures from the Department for Transport. That figure is expected to grow fast as we approach the 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel car sales. 

Not all EVs and PHEVs come with a public charger cable as standard. They can cost car buyers at least £200 extra so some will be looking to save money by buying secondhand cables online. Owners who want to be able to charge up quickly and efficiently at home and work may choose to buy a second cable so they can leave one at each location. 

How are charging cables stolen? 

Most cars have systems that automatically lock the charging port into the car once it has been plugged in, but not all of them are as secure as they should be and some can be dislodged by a determined thief.

Nissan Leaf

Popular older EVs, including the original Nissan Leaf, are said to have less effective security measures to prevent the leads being disconnected by someone other than the owner, according to charge point installer Brite.

Tesla has introduced a “cold weather improvements” software update after owners reported cases of the car’s locking mechanisms failing when temperatures dropped below freezing, meaning they were vulnerable to cable theft. 

It’s important for EV and PHEV owners to think about cable security. It’s advisable to keep them indoors or locked in the garage at your home, and stored out of sight if when they're in your car to stop opportunistic criminals spotting them and breaking a car window to steal them.  

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