EV charging infrastructure has been expanding. There have been several reports of vandalism at charging stations. Thieves have been cutting charging cables in cities like Seattle, Reno, Houston and Minneapolis in search of copper, hitting everything from Tesla Superchargers to Level 2 chargers at local businesses and even individual households. Video evidence has shown that some thieves are so eager to cut charging cables that they have even been clipping them while in use.

Cutting EV charging cables is a spectacularly bad idea. Here’s why.

EV chargers handle a staggering amount of electricity

Electric vehicles have massive batteries. Charging them involves sending a lot of power through the charging cable relatively quickly.  

Ford estimates an F-150 Lightning on a full charge can send enough power back out to run a typical home at full usage for three days. A Level 2 charger can replenish that overnight. Even without particularly fast charging, a DC fast charger delivers enough juice to replenish the 131 kWh battery pack on an F-150 Lighting to 80% in less than 40 minutes. 

The amount of electricity in an EV charger is more than enough to be lethal

Estimates vary on the amount of electricity required to kill a person. But it’s safe to say an EV charging cable will exceed that by a wide margin. There’s a reason EV chargers carry warnings not to use frayed or damaged cords.

According to TradeSafe, a voltage below 50V is generally considered safe. A Level 2 charger operates at 240V. A DC fast charger can operate at up to 1,000V, well beyond the 500V required to be considered “high voltage.” Current is also a factor. A 100 mA current is enough to cause fatal ventricular fibrillation and respiratory arrest. A humble home EV charger can use a 48 A current. A DC fast charger can use north of 100 A.


Cutting into an in-use EV charging cable risks encountering a fatal amount of electricity (watch the video above to see what happens). While an out-of-use charging cable shouldn’t be carrying any electricity, EV charger malfunctions are not uncommon

Clipping EV charging cables is a tremendous amount of risk for what seems like a small amount of money

As of this writing, the official price of copper is $4.56 per pound. We can presume scrap yards looking to resell the copper are charging less than that. According to Recycling Today, an EV charging cable contains about 2.2 pounds of copper. Even at the full official price, that would be a little over $10 worth of copper. Processing would be required to remove the copper and make it not look stolen. Transportation may require multiple gallons of gasoline. 

As Jalopnik points out, North America may not have enough EV charging infrastructure to make stealing charging cables lucrative.

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