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Copper suspected target in St. Albert EV charging cable theft

A St. Albert rec centre is dealing with vandalism and theft to its electric vehicle charging stations that city officials believe may have happened because the cables contain copper.

Kelly McConnell, senior manager of recreation programs and services with the City of St. Albert, said all eight cables on the charging stations at Servus Place were cut off and stolen on June 3.

“We believe that people cut them off assuming that they could cash them in for some copper,” McConnell said. “I think it (was) just opportunity. Just like many thefts for cable that we read about or hear about, it’s just opportunity. I think it’s just vandalism and theft, is really the motivation, thinking they could cash it in for the sale of the minerals inside.”

St. Albert RCMP confirmed they received a complaint about the crime and are investigating.

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The recreation centre has surveillance cameras in its parking lot. McConnell said the cameras captured some video footage of the vandalism, which has been sent to the RCMP.

William York, president of the Electric Vehicle Association of Alberta, said while it doesn’t track instances like this, he believes cable thefts are on the rise. However, he warned that the value of the copper in the cables is minimal.

“When you look at how much copper is actually in those cables, it’s very little, just a couple of dollars’ worth,” he said.

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“This is not worth the trouble. There’s not enough copper in there for it to be worth your while.”

York said the cost to the charging station owner is much higher.

“Those cables can cost anywhere from $250 each to – if it’s a fast charger we’re talk about – up to $7,000 each,” he explained.

“It is quite costly.”

Click to play video: 'Surveillance video shows thieves stealing EV charging cables from Surrey home'

Surveillance video shows thieves stealing EV charging cables from Surrey home

The city estimates the cost to replace the units will be between $5,000 and $6,000. At this point, there’s no timeline on the replacement, McConnell said.

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“We are currently investigating to see if there’s any kind of security enhancements that we can possibly do to make it a little harder for them to be stolen,” he said. “We would contract it most likely through the provider of the units and just have them repair. I don’t think it’s anything too difficult. They would do it in a day, I imagine.”

While the cost to replace the units won’t break the bank, it’s an inconvenience for the city.

“This is not exorbitant. We have a fairly large budget here. I don’t see this would put us in any kind of difficulty,” McConnell said.

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“What you would hear from not only us, but recreation facilities across the province, across Canada is you always have a certain degree of theft and vandalism that you deal with, but EV chargers is certainly a new one for us.”

York said the EV industry is very aware of the issue of cables being vandalized or stolen, and added that there are technology solutions coming in the near future in hopes of mitigating the crime.

“It will be a mixture of GPS tracking devices, security camera systems and then criminal investigations.”

The four electric vehicle charging stations with two cables each were installed at Servus Place last year.

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While the charging stations see marginal use now, McConnell said the city was preparing for the future when they had them installed.

“We slowly see more and more of an uptake as time went on,” he said. “It is a service we have, and we want to be able to provide that service.

“More and more people, now they know that they’re here, they take advantage of them.”

McConnell said St. Albert has 22 EV charging stations in total within the city.

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