Thefts of electric car charging cables could be the next wave of car crime

Cable concerns: Reports suggest criminals are now targeting the £200 leads used by EV owners to charge their vehicles

Concerns are growing that a new type of car crime could hit the streets of Britain, as thieves target the nation’s growing number of electric vehicle owners.

A number of reports have suggested that there has already been a spike in cases of EV drivers having their charging cables pinched – the leads used to plug into a wallbox, public device or the mains to replenish the batteries in their cars.

Crafty thieves are fully aware of their value – and the worth of the metals inside the cables. 

With many drivers leaving the leads unattended while they charge during the day and night or when they’re vehicles isn’t plugged in, criminals are snatching them and making away with the valuable cords that are worth around £200 each.

It comes as drivers of petrol cars continue to fall victim to the spate of catalytic converter thefts that have been spreading across the country in the last couple of years, which in worst cases are writing off perfectly good vehicles.

Rubbish removal company has warned that EV owners should not leave an electric charging cable outside their home, as they have become the new target of scrap metal thieves on the hunt for 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,’ said company spokesman Mark Hall. 

‘And they can be pretty costly and inconvenient for you to replace, so it’s best to keep it locked away from the crooks.’

With half a million plug-in cars on Britain's roads, criminals have more prey to target when pinching charging cables

With half a million plug-in cars on Britain’s roads, criminals have more prey to target when pinching charging cables

Just last month the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, announced that there are now over half a million plug-in cars on Britain’s roads – either fully electric vehicles or plug-in hybrids.

With the Government set to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030, the shift to electrification is predicted to gather pace at a dramatic rate over the course of the next decade.

Motor thefts down 15% in 2020 

Comparison site ComparetheMarket said in a report issued this week that 61,743 vehicles have been stolen over the last two years, though rates dropped by nearly 15 per cent in 2020 (28,454) while many of us were at home and able to watch over our cars due to the pandemic.

The remaining 33,289 were stolen in 2019, according to the figures from 26 police forces.

Overall, the West Midlands fell victim to the most crimes (11,506) over the last two years. However, it’s Birmingham West (3,105) that ranks top for the total number of offences, despite thefts in 2020 decreasing by nearly 21 per cent compared to 2019. 

Looking more closely at vehicle theft across the UK, further analysis shows an annual increase in keyless car theft, accounting for 93 per cent of all recorded thefts in 2020. 

The most stolen vehicles include the Range Rover and Land Rover, especially the Range Rover Sport, and Autobiography. The Land Rover Discovery and Range Rover Evoque follow. 

In fact, in 2020 ComparetheMarket saw an increase in enquiries for the Range Rover Evoque by 11 per cent compared to 2019, whilst the Range Rover Sport saw an increase of 9 per cent, and the Land Rover Discovery at 7 per cent.

‘There are measures you can put in place to help reduce the chance of your car being stolen, but nothing can keep your vehicle 100 per cent secure,’ warns Dan Hutson, head of motor insurance at the site. 

‘So you need to make sure you have an insurance policy that covers theft so you don’t end up out of pocket if a criminal strikes.’ 

See full details of the research here. 

This will offer up yet more targets for light-fingered criminals, who previously targeted copper in telephone cables and lead from church roofs to make an easy buck. 

And it’s charging cables – and the copper inside them – that are set to become the next easy prey for organised thieves. 

‘With more people going green and choosing electric cars over petrol and diesel, there are more charging cables available for thieves to target,’ said Hall. 

‘And at £200 a pop, running off with a cable is easy money for any thief looking to strike it rich.’ 

This week, the AA said damage and theft of charging cables is among the biggest security concerns among drivers when it comes to owning an EV.

More than two thirds (69 per cent) of a panel of 15,500 licence holders said they are worried about having charging leads tampered with, or nicked, when they are connected to a public chargepoint. 

It comes as thefts of catalytic converters have boomed in recent months.

The AA said in April that it had seen an ‘explosion’ in thefts of the emissions devices, which are fitted to petrol and petrol-hybrid vehicles to reduce their pollution.

The motoring group said its patrols had attended almost 4,000 cases last year where catalytic converters had been ripped from the underside of cars.

The vehicle recovery service said it was called to just 57 instances of broken down motors found to have had these devices stolen in 2017. 

That figure rose to 3,910 in 2020 – a leap of 6,760 per cent over just four years. 

Edmund King, president at the AA, said: ‘There is some 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.’

Can someone steal an charging cable while it’s in use? 

Most of the latest electric vehicle models have locking systems in place that prevent the cable from being detached without the car being unlocked.

This is designed to allow owners to leave the car charging securely overnight or while they are shopping.

However, they’re not always entirely fool-proof. 

Older popular EVs, like the Nissan Leaf, are said to not have effective security measures to prevent the leads being disconnected by someone other than the owner, according to charge point installer, Brite.

Tesla has also been targeted by hackers who attempt to remotely access the vehicle to end the charging session so they can get away with the cables.

The US firm has also been forced to provide a ‘cold weather improvements’ software update after owners reported cases of the locking mechanism failing when temperatures dropped below freezing.

Edmund King, president of the AA, says the cables are being stolen by criminals for resale, with some having a value of over £200

Edmund King, president of the AA, says the cables are being stolen by criminals for resale, with some having a value of over £200

Replacing a stolen charging cable can cost from anything between £125 to over £200. 

Edmund King told us the best way to protect untethered cables is to lock it away out of sight. 

‘It is fairly difficult to steal a cable when an EV is charging, and most public charging sites are in well-lit and populated areas,’ he said.   

‘There is some copper in the cables but my technical expert thinks they are worth more as a complete charging cable rather than for scrap metal.

‘We have seen trends like this in the past from lead on church roofs to metal in wire cables along the railway tracks. Let us hope this is just a blip and that drivers remember to lock the cable in the boot when they have finished charging which is exactly what I do now.’

Specialist EV insurance and warranties launched this month 


To provide assurance to prospective EV owners, the AA has launched EV insurance which provides cover for the top five insurance concerns raised by drivers.

These include:

1. Accidental damage, fire or theft of the car and personal cables when connected to a public chargepoint – 69%

2. Damage to the main drive battery – 65%

3. Accidental damage, fire or theft of the car and personal cables when connected to a homecharger – 65%

4. Damage to the charging cable – 48%

5. Protection if someone trips over the charging cable – 44% 

Extended warranty

The has also launched its latest product for the EV market – a warranty scheme for second-hand electric and hybrid cars.

It can be applied to any plug-in model up to eight years old and with no more than 80,000 miles on the clock. Cover is available for a variety of periods up to 24 months and claims can be made up to a limit of the vehicle purchase price.

The warranty covers components in the electric drivetrain and charge system, with the exception of the batteries, which are generally already covered by long manufacturer warranties, says the RAC.