If you’re like us, you probably winced the first time you saw the RRP of a brand new Tesla Model S (that’s why we’re in the leasing business, if you hadn’t guessed). Yes, once they’re on the road, electric cars are far cheaper in the long run. Unfortunately, they also come with some rather expensive accessories.
Charging cables are essential if you own an electric car - whether you plan to charge at home or on the road. But at a couple of hundred pounds a pop, replacements are not exactly cheap. In this article we explain why electric car charging cable theft is an issue, and what you can do to prevent it.
Do electric car charging cables get stolen?
While it is true that some charging points use ‘tethered’ or fixed cables that are not easily stolen (e.g. Tesla Superchargers), many of the charging stations found on the high street are ‘universal’.
As there are a multitude of different EV charger types, it often makes sense for charging stations to let EV drivers use their own cable. This means you can’t afford to travel without a charging cable of your own. With as many as 515,000 EVs and Plug-in Hybrids (PHEVs) on the road this year - a figure that is growing rapidly - criminals are increasingly on the lookout for these valuable items.
As most electric vehicles are left unattended to charge, electric car manufacturers are well aware of the potential for EV charging cable theft. Most EVs have locking mechanisms to keep your charging cable secure while the vehicle is left unattended. Unfortunately, they’re not always fool-proof - as Tesla owners discovered in 2018.
Reports of charging cable theft were on the rise, with many suspecting that thieves were using little more than brute force to remove the cable. As many pointed out, this was unlikely given the damage it would cause to the cable. An over-the-air update listing ‘cold weather improvements’ was released to deal with reports of charging cables becoming stuck in the car’s charging ports.
Electrek suggested that changes were made to the locking mechanism which inadvertently made it easier for thieves to remove the cable from the charge port in cold weather. Others have suggested that cars like the Nissan Leaf have particularly fragile locking mechanisms to begin with, making them prime candidates for targeting by thieves.
Why would someone want to steal an EV charging cable?
Disappearing charging cables might seem like mindless vandalism but, as many unscrupulous individuals have discovered, EV charging cable theft is an excellent way to turn a quick profit.
A standard Type 2 BP Chargemaster cable that will work with everything from BMWs and Audis to Renaults and Peugeots retails for £149.
A Tesla branded Type 2 Adapter can be bought for £195, while Tesla’s Universal Mobile Connector and CHAdeMO adapters retail for £295 and £300 respectively. This makes them obvious targets for resellers on second-hand marketplaces such as eBay or Facebook.
Carefully securing your cables may be one way to combat this type of theft - a broken cable is worth little to a second-hand dealer. Unfortunately, as Mark Hall from Divert.co.uk suggests, they are also a ‘must-have’ for scrap metal thieves. One thing is for certain - if you need a replacement, you can say goodbye to all your hard-earned fuel savings!
How do you secure a charging cable?
New charging cables are an unwanted and often unnecessary expense for EV owners. Though automakers and charge point providers do their best to keep your cables secure, as the example of Tesla demonstrates, they are rarely 100% successful. But don’t worry, we’ve got a few tips and tricks to keep yours secure and limit any additional expenses that you might incur:
Electric car charging at home makes the most sense for the majority of EV owners. But even with your own driveway, your electric car charger may not be safe from prying eyes. One solution is to locate your electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) in your garage.
If you don’t have a garage, you could always opt for a wallbox with a tethered cable instead. It’s worth keeping in mind that this will limit the cars that you can plug in to charge without an additional adapter.
Padlocks have been around forever - because they work! Many EVs have a dedicated loop through which you can secure your charging cable to your car using a small padlock. On the Nissan Leaf, this is located on the panel above the charging port.
An alternative is to loop the cable through the spokes on one of the wheels on your car and then put a padlock through the cable.
Use your boot
If you don’t have a padlock to hand, you may also be able to trap your cable through the lock on your boot. If your cable is too thick, or not long enough, you may need a heavy duty extension cable for this to work.
Park on your cable
If you’ve been caught without any suitable locking devices, the easiest way to secure your charging cable is to park on it. Trust us, those big batteries make EVs difficult to shift. You’ll want to lay the cable along the ground before plugging in and then roll the car forward, making sure to leave a little slack, so that you don’t rip the cable out of the charging station or the car inadvertently.
We would recommend that you don’t make a habit of parking on the cable as it may lead to damaging the cable. Some have attempted to get around this issue by placing cable protectors over the cable before parking on it, similar to the kind you’ll find when tradespeople run cables along the pavement. This is a fairly easy solution, as the cable protector can be easily cut down to size and stored in the froot with the rest of your charging equipment.
Home security cameras could be used in combination with the home charging measures listed above as an extra deterrence measure.
While dashcams can’t stop charging cable theft at public charging stations, installing front and rear dash cams may make potential thieves think twice before attempting to run off with your cables.
Most dash cams will turn off when the car is not being driven to prevent draining the battery. However, you can also find dash cams on the market that offer a ‘parking mode’ that starts recording when it detects motion. If the thief remains undeterred, at least you will be able to provide clear evidence of the perpetrator to the police.
Ditching your petrol or diesel car for an EV is just about the best thing you can do for the planet right now. The lifetime emissions of an EV are well below those of an average internal combustion engine. Why then do so many crooks seem intent on undoing all our hard work? Well, it seems Michael Caine was right - some people really do want to watch the world burn.
We hope you’re able to make use of some of the tips and tricks outlined above. If you’re considering buying an electric car, we’ve written a comprehensive guide to help you make the best choice.
We’ve also answered loads of other important EV owner questions, such as ‘how do you pay for electric car charging’ and ‘how much does it cost to charge an electric car’?