St. Albert mulls EV charging station security measures

The City of St. Albert is considering new security measures for its electric vehicle charging stations after eight charging cables were stolen from Servus Place.

The charging stations saw frequent use and have been out of service since June 3, said Gage Tweedy, a municipal energy specialist with the city.

“We’re still in the middle of discussing what repairs we’ll do and if we can do new preventative measures to prevent them from being cut off again,” Tweedy said.

Although the city has not yet landed on a security solution, Tweedy said charging cable thefts have been an issue for municipalities around the province. The cables contain copper, which has risen in price and can be sold at scrap metal yards.

Tweedy pointed to areas in Europe where drivers bring their own charging cables to EV stations, but he could not confirm whether the city will pursue this strategy.  

“It is something we’re looking into,” he said.

There are 22 city-owned EV charging stations scattered across landmarks such as St. Albert Place, Fountain Park Recreation Centre, St. Albert Business Centre and Servus Place. All of the stations would be impacted by the new security measures.

“We’ve talked with other municipalities that have had this issue, and we’ve also talked to some electrical companies to see if they have any solutions,” Tweedy said.

In an email, St. Albert RCMP said they have not had additional reports of charging cable thefts.

The suspects in the Servus Place thefts are still unknown, they said.

Vandalism could be ideological, association president says

EV charging cable thefts could be chalked up to thieves misunderstanding the innards of the cables, which don’t contain enough copper to be of much value, especially considering the time and effort it takes to extract the metal, said William York, president of the Electric Vehicle Association of Alberta.

“But it also could just be maliciousness, where they’re specifically targeting EV charging infrastructure because they’re ideologically opposed to it,” York said.

EV charging station vandalism is becoming more common worldwide, and in some cases vandals will leave the charging cables behind after damaging the stations, proof, York said, that the main target is the EV industry and EV drivers.  

Thefts can be especially devastating for drivers in remote areas who rely on the stations to travel, York said.

“This could be life-threatening to somebody” in a rural area,  he said. “But if it occurs in a city like St. Albert, it’s still greatly inconvenient.”

The EV owner demographic has shifted to include more middle-class people who may not have access to a charger at home and who require public charging facilities, York said. Vandalism and thefts can leave these drivers stranded.

York Estimated it would cost the St. Albert at least $5,000 to replace the Servus Place charging cables.

“It causes great trouble and suffering for vehicle owners,” York said. “And it causes trouble and suffering  for charging station owners, for people that are curious about [owning], for the movement of addressing climate change, for moving Canada on the energy transition and for taxpayers.”

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