Why Baltimore's Vandalized Charging Stations Have Taken Too Long To Fix
In late August 2011, the City of Baltimore, Md, installed its first public charging station in a city-owned parking garage. With funds received from Maryland’s state Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Grant, it has installed a further ten since, giving residents and visitors a chance to refuel their cars while they work or shop.
Since then, the charging stations have proven so popular that the Baltimore City Department of General Services is trying to procure additional funding to increase the city’s charging station provision. But two charging stations—located at the city’s Water Street Garage—have been out of operation since September 2012 after vandals smashed the stations’ J1772 connectors.
Worse still, despite numerous complaints from EV drivers in the area, the City of Baltimore is still in the process of ordering the necessary replacement parts.
“The Level 2 Ports of the ChargePoint charging station in Water Street Garage has been out of service since at least September 14, 2012,” EV driver Lanny Hartmann explained. “I’ve reported it several times to the parking Authority of Baltimore City, most recently on April 5 via email. I called the parking attendant's office at Water Street Garage last week, and she said that it is still not fixed.”
To illustrate how broken the charging stations were, Hartmann even sent the relevant authorities photographs of the damaged points, which you can see above and below.
Hartmann isn’t alone. The Charging stations, with their innards exposed for the world to see, have been frustrating other electric car drivers for months.
“Stopped by today, and the plug was laying on the ground destroyed,” wrote one user on the popular PlugShare EV charging station directory two months ago. “110v plug also did not work. Might as well consider this station non-existent.”
Drivers say they have been reporting the stations faulty for months—both to ChargePoint and to the Parking Authority of Baltimore City. But why has it taken the city so long to respond to the vandalism?
Simply put, the city wasn’t prepared for the possibility that the charging stations would be vandalized.
Coulomb, the manufacturer of the ChargePoint charging stations purchased by the City of Baltimore, offers both a standard warranty and an extended warranty on all of its equipment. The warranty covers internal defects and malfunctions of the units themselves, but does not cover vandalism.
“When we received the chargers as part of the aforementioned grant, we planned ahead and purchased an extended warranty in case issues arose,” said Jason Mathias, spokesperson for Baltimore City Department of General Services. “However, we do not charge for the use of the EV chargers, and we did not anticipate purposeful destruction of the chargers.”
Despite being in a public parking garage, with 24 hour access, no-one at the City Department of General Services saw vandalism as a possibility. Now faced with vandalized charging stations, the wheels of bureaucracy are turning very slowly.
“We had no system in place to purchase a replacement part,” Mathias continued, “So, although we were notified and began acting within days of the vandalism occurring, we have taken the past months to create a method to properly procure the replacement core in a expeditious manner.”
The Water Street Garage charging stations aren’t the only ones causing a headache for the City of Baltimore, however. Another charging station in the city was reported as vandalized, but the city has since discovered it was suffering a fault covered under warranty.
“We also have a charger that is malfunctioning at the Arena Garage, 99 South Howard St.,” Mathias confirmed. “The malfunction occurred in early March. This charger was reported by a user to Coulomb as vandalized, thereby voiding warranty. There was a delay due to testing being needed to determine the issue and to verify that it was a mechanical failure, not an act of vandalism.”
While the City of Baltimore assures us both the vandalized and the malfunctioning charging stations will soon be functional, the length of time it has taken so far to repair them is completely unacceptable. Not only does it inconvenience EV owners, but leaving charging stations vandalized for such long periods of time dissuades others from making the switch to electric as well as posing a health and safety risk.
If electric cars are to be adopted in large numbers, it is up to existing owners, charging network providers, and public and state-owned parking garages to work together to ensure that the problems experienced by the City of Baltimore are not replicated nationwide.
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