Why Baltimore's Vandalized Charging Stations Have Taken Too Long To Fix

By · June 28, 2013

WaterSt Garage

The Level 2 Charging Stations in this Baltimore parking garage have been out of action since September of last year.

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.”

WaterSt Garage

The Baltimore City Department of General Services Says things will get fixed... soon.

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.

Comments

· · 1 year ago

how hard is it to order replacement parts?

Call the manufacturer, get the part numbers, order the pieces,
have a city electrician repair them.

It's no harder then getting a toilet fixed in a city building, is it?

· · 1 year ago

Typically, "Free" services usually take far longer to repair than "paid" services. Those are just facts.

So, until there is a signficant profit in keeping those stations running, the urgency of repairing those stations will always be in question.

This is why I drive an EREV instead of a BEV. When the infrastructure fails me, I have a backup plan.

· · 1 year ago

hmm, exactly same thing I noticed in another part of Maryland about 1 month ago at Gaithersburg Area (Univ of Maryland at Shady Grove Campus) and then yesterday when i went to check again, it was still broken; looked very deliberate attempt to smash it. Called up the ChargePoint to report it. Let us see how long they take to fix it.

wondering who these idiots are, vandalizing the charging stations all over the state.

· · 1 year ago

"Wondering who these idiots are, vandalizing the charging stations all over the state."

Patriots, likely, at least in their eyes. Sounds to me like some beneficent corporation or civic group should step up and offer to maintain these charging stations.
Alternatively, perhaps the chargers failed and the vendor intensionally vandalized the stations to avoid liability? Baltimore is a funny place. Camera loops watching charge stations and stopping when something goes wrong might be worth an investment. Who knows? Maybe the problem is innocent. Perhaps the device is too delicate for commercial service? I can see someone unfamiliar with it's heft accidentally dropping the J1772 head on concrete, shattering a fragile PVC housing. Think of gas pumps: think bullet-proof. Designs that do not fall to the concrete or under the tires of parking vehicles are well within reach. So, reach.

· · 1 year ago

Patriots? Nice try.

I'd rather walk unprotected in downtown Houston than downtown Baltimore.

This shows Baltimore is not serious about powering EV's.

They need a supply of replacement cords with built in j1772 ends, plus one electrician who can splice 3 #10
AWG wires plus 1 - #18 AWG data wire. Should take all of 15 minutes per vandalized docking station. And the EV world would benefit with a longer cord than was there originally.

With all the money Baltimore spends, surely they could hire one electrician.

· · 1 year ago

@Togetherinparis, "Patriots, likely, at least in their eyes."

I was thinking more along the lines of "Occupy Protesters", since they are the ones who push old ladies down stairs, and would want to sabotage the 1 percenters who can afford to own expensive electric cars.

· · 1 year ago

The housing looks like it splits apart in half. The pins don't even look damaged. Probably could be fixed with just a new plastic outer housing. 2 minute job. Alright, a couple hours for union workers, but still...

· · 1 year ago

I doubt it will take Tesla very long to service a damaged Supercharger. That's the only charging infrastructure that makes sense anyway since it's systematically rolled out with real vision. The rest is just a confusing miriad of standards, outputs and ownership. Pretty useless.

Don't know about vandalism, maybe someone drove off without unplugging first. Or somebody dropped the lead on the floor and someone else accidentally drove over it.

· · 1 year ago

Although the Occupy Movement certainly doesn't speak with a single voice, electric transportation doesn't seem to be on their radar screen as something most of them are feverishly against. A quick Google search, in fact, indicates it's otherwise. One of the first things it brought up was this Facebook page with a pro-EV Occupy stance . . .

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Occupy-Electric-Cars/248097285238239

Despite the fact that production electric cars are - obviously - made by multinational corporations (no friends of the Occupy Movement,) most of the conversation I see on web pages such as the above one are criticisms directed at state governments for not allowing Tesla to sell directly to customers and outrage over the environmental filth generated by tar sand oil production and the Keystone XL pipeline.

The Tea Party and so-called "Patriots?" They also doesn't speak autonomously. But - honestly - this is slice of the American populous that has had very little to say positively in regards to wider EV adoption. Here's is a fairly typical example of their online discourse regarding this subject . . .

http://www.teapartytribune.com/2013/04/10/obama-electric-cars-crony-capi...

As for the Baltimore incident, I'm going to guess that its nothing more than the work of young vandals with no particular political agenda, who happened to notice that plastic J1772 plug housings are broken easily. If they had extreme political intentions, I'm sure they would have left some sort of calling card with a real message attached at the scene of the crime.

· · 1 year ago

I think you'll find, Chris O, that most modern EVs have a starting lockout safety feature that won't allow the vehicle to move when a plug is inserted. There's a scene in "Revenge Of The Electric Car" where Bob Lutz couldn't get an early generation Volt prototype to move out of the parking space. He initially feared the worst in regards to battery/electronics failure, only to find that this safety feature was engineered into that car even at this early stage of development. But, yes, having a plug run over by a car tire and crushed by accident has certainly happened at this point, I'm sure.

As for the placement of much public EVSE infrastructure, I have to agree that it's rather haphazard at this point.

· · 1 year ago

This is why Europe chose "Mode 3" for public charging, where there is no cable fixed to the charging station. When you swipe your access card, a cover opens and you plug in your own cable that has connectors on both ends:

https://www.phoenixcontact.com/online/portal/us?1dmy&urile=wcm:path:/use...

The European connector looks like it was modeled on J1772 but has two extra pins to allow for three phase power which is more common in Europe. There is also an ID pin that tells the system how heavy your cable is. That way, if you have a 16 amp cable but plug into 32 amp station, the system will still limit to 16 amps.

· · 1 year ago

The problem with the "Occupy" movement is they didn't make any demands. So they got their wish for all they asked. Exactly nothing.

Elizabeth Warren's (and whomever the house member was, sorry I forget) joint "Bank On Students" bill lowers the rate to 3/4 % from 3.4 % (raises to 6.8% july 1st), and more importantly, the cost will be financed by the FED, not the taxpayers. If the FED can bail out money center banks to the tune of $27 Trillion for starters, surely they can reduce the pain for indebted students.

The republican response is just an ARM trick... For all the tea partiers who dislike the FED, this is their chance to get some of their money back, so support it.

· · 1 year ago

Did anyone find the answer to the headline question in the article? I didn't, but the real answer is pretty obvious.

· · 1 year ago

@Ben & others: while I can't comment on how sturdy Chargepoint's hardware is (and I certainly won't add to others non-constructive political remarks), I can tell you that the similar-looking Yasaki J1772 handle survives being driven over just fine.

For 2-some months I charged my Leaf exclusively with the L1 EVSE that came with it. I got quickly tired of rolling its relatively long cable out of the way, so what had to happen did eventually happen: one night its connector ended up under a tire. Most likely "just" the bottom half, judging from the thread prints on one side and minor scratches on the other...
In any case, the only damage was cosmetic, which didn't surprise me. Yasaki surely designed its product to handle this situation.

I haven't tried this with the Blink's cheaper-looking Rema handle; I don't think I'd dare to...

· · 1 year ago

Easy fix. Have all the public charging equipment maintained by private contractors. Add a clause that payment amount will be on a sliding scale based on repair turnaround.

· · 25 weeks ago

In a world where miles of streetlights no longer work because the wiring has been stolen and sold for scrap; where the fire hydrants are missing their bronze covers (also stolen for scrap,) and where vandals delight in destruction for its own sake, it amazes me that no one has given any apparent thought to the incredible vulnerability of current charging stations. When they start hacking off charging cords by the dozen for the copper value there is going to be a huge amount of hand-wringing by the community and inconvenience for EV owners.

There will also be an inevitable redesign of the entire public EV charging network. It would be nice to start thinking about this now, instead of later.

· · 25 weeks ago

In a world where miles of streetlights no longer work because the wiring has been stolen and sold for scrap; where the fire hydrants are missing their bronze covers (also stolen for scrap,) and where vandals delight in destruction for its own sake, it amazes me that no one has given any apparent thought to the incredible vulnerability of current charging stations. When they start hacking off charging cords by the dozen for the copper value there is going to be a huge amount of hand-wringing by the community and inconvenience for EV owners.

There will also be an inevitable redesign of the entire public EV charging network. It would be nice to start thinking about this now, instead of later.

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