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Multiple CA Supercharger locations down in past 5 months: breakdowns, vandalism, or theft?

Discussion in 'California Supercharger locations' started by ecarfan, Mar 19, 2017.

  1. ecarfan

    ecarfan Well-Known Member

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    #1 ecarfan, Mar 19, 2017
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2017
    On Nov 18,2016 the Barstow Supercharger was rendered inoperative, reportedly due to the theft of multiple circuit breakers from the locked enclosure.

    On Feb 23, 2017 the Cabazon Supercharger was rendered inoperative and took about 2 weeks to be put back into service. One TMC member reported that a Tesla owner they knew said that "the cables were cut", whatever that means. I haven't found a reliable first hand report of what actually happened.

    On Mar 11, 2017 the Indio Supercharger was also rendered inoperative. A TMC user reported "cables were stolen" fron the enclosure (not the charging cables attached to the pedestals) but it is not clear to me how they knew that.

    On Mar 18, 2017, the Gustine, Bakersfield, and Buttonwillow Superchargers were all rendered inoperative on the same day. One TMC member reported being at Gustine and speaking with a Tesla employee on site to repair it and was told that a circuit breaker was stolen. As of this post I don't have any information on what happened at Bakersfield and Buttonwillow.

    Although the most likely explanation is simply theft with the intent of selling valuable circuit breaker parts for hundreds of dollars each on the black market, I am not ruling out deliberate vandalism with the intent of making Tesla look bad. The vandalism could even be designed in some instances to make it look like the perpatrators were after the circuit breakers but their real motive was simply to take down the Supercharger location. Some may find such speculation (and that is all it is at this point) veering towards paranoia, but it is possible.

    It is also possible that the six Supercharger locations were not all targeted by the same perpetrators.

    Tesla can attempt to solve this problem by adding additional protection to the enclosures where all the expensive hardware is located, such as chain link fencing on top to form a "roof" of sorts. However that can be penetrated without a great deal of effort. A more secure roof will require extensive modifications to the enclosures, and it will have to have sufficient ventilation to handle the heat generated by the transformers and inverters.

    If these incidents continue to occur, this could be a serious problem for Tesla. Security cameras could help, but can't stop such incidents since the perpatrators could park their vehicle away from the cameras and then wear hats/masks/hoods to obscure their identity.
     
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  2. ecarfan

    ecarfan Well-Known Member

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    Want to emphasize that the six Supercharger incidents I listed above may not have been perpetrated by the same people. Some may be grouped together (Gustine/Bakersfield/Buttonwillow and Cabazon/Indio) but the little information we have may indicate that different pieces of hardware were stolen (circuit breakers in the enclosure, cabling in the enclosure, pedestal charging cables cut at Cabazon).

    I'm not arriving at any firm conclusions yet because I don't have enough verified and reliable information. And we may never have such information. So I am only speculating based on what little has been reported so far. But six incidents in five months, all in California, is a concern.

    I don't read the other regional forums closely so it is possible there have been incidents at other Supercharger locations outside California. But I doubt there have been as many anywhere else in a relatively short time period.
     
  3. Lump

    Lump Active Member

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    Range anxiety, queue anxiety, slow charging anxiety, idle fees & now "vandalism-theft-sabatoge"...come on kids jump in the Tesla, lets go on a road trip :( .
     
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  4. Haxster

    Haxster Member

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    What about surrounding the enclosures with a high voltage screen… and maybe a few very small warning signs?
     
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  5. BluestarE3

    BluestarE3 Active Member

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    That may dissuade casual thieves/vandals, but the fact the perps in these instances seem to know their way around these high-voltage installations to remove specific equipment means that these measures won't slow them down much and reveals a certain level of sophistication and planning... which leaves open the possibility of industrial sabotage.
     
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  6. Haxster

    Haxster Member

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    TSLA short sellers?
     
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  7. McRat

    McRat Active Member

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  8. Haxster

    Haxster Member

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    $14K? Yikes!

    Now I don't feel so bad about the cost of installing my 50 Amp breaker.
     
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  9. McRat

    McRat Active Member

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    I first encountered this when I went to add some 3ph 480v equipment at work and needed a 30a breaker. The 'little' breaker was $400 and I thought I was being scammed.
     
  10. stopcrazypp

    stopcrazypp Well-Known Member

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    Wow, this is definitely worth stealing by thieves. So I wouldn't assign more sinister sabotage motives when the economic motive is quite high. And another theory not pointed out is sometimes it is by disgruntled former contractors.
     
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  11. McRat

    McRat Active Member

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    I have no idea which model breakers were stolen, but there are no cheap ones. It is like robbing a bank without a gun.
     
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  12. McManX

    McManX Member

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    (emphasis added)

    Just pointing out that the Gustine breaker allegedly failed/went bad and was not stolen (unless there is something I missed). Although theft or vandalism may seems like the likely explanation for these events there are many others as well. Especially with the 3 from yesterday all close together on I-5 ---- could be upgrading parts to improve reliability. (aren't buttonwillow and Bakersfield cited as some of the slow supercharger problems/ hot handles). Maybe the Tesla employee just didn't want to bother, or was not allow to, explain the improvements he was doing in Gustine. Just my 2 cents.
     
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  13. Haxster

    Haxster Member

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    Maybe they shouldn't use such cheap breakers :eek:
     
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  14. Ulmo

    Ulmo Active Member

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    #14 Ulmo, Mar 19, 2017
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2017
    Who?

    They didn't tell me. This is what I wrote in a post here on TMC at 12:59AM today (PDT, March 19, 2017): "I just got to Gustine. The SC was dark. A manufacturer Tesla Model S with a Tesla worker was there locking the equipment gate. I asked what was wrong and he said a circuit breaker failed, and a part went bad."

    Ahh, I see @McManX beat me to it! Thank you.

    Ok, but I wanted to share some of the thoughts I had while going up the road by the reservoir: it is possible that those three SuperChargers that were built and put into service in a similar timeframe as each other share common causes for the coincident failures. Here are some of my theories:
    • Same part used which was manufacturered bad
    • Weather pattern related (it was one of the warmest days this year after one of the rainiest years in decades)
    • Faulty car transmitted fault into SuperCharger
    • Common design fault
    • Software upgrade done at the same time on all these versions of SuperCharger causing some sort of physical fault. (If this did happen, it is a reminder to implement software upgrades in staggered fashion as much as possible to avoid these issues.)
    • Common grid connection and spike went through grid that affected these pieces of equipment.
    • Local loads such as restaurants and transport & farm related businesses put heavy wear and tear on local SuperCharger equipment
    • Something about being near heavy distribution lines without much "load sink" nearby cause spikes. Note that these distribution lines are probably full of energy from recent storms and huge hydroelectric, and also very sunny days with record high solar panel output
    • California and national water projects pumps causing drains and spikes (something that is probably way different post-storms) (these are the lines that bring water to LA)
    • Reservoir water moving operations are different now
    • It can't be related?: ground is probably rising now that water is going into it. We hope.
    • Some type of microorganism that grows was brought in with the recent storms, and then due to the fact that almost all of Central Valley experiences identical temperature simultaneously, the specific weather pattern touching all three similarly built SuperChargers had identical microorganism biology triggers that caused a growth that made the same failure happen at the same time
    • Condensation due to equal weather patterns in equal ways caused same fault in same exact pieces of equipment in similarly constructed SuperChargers
    • Common vandalism vulnerability
    • Construction workers who built it knew where to look for expensive items (which seems most likely theft explanation but still unlikely -- who would be so destructive and stupid? They live here and everyone knows them, so they'd be caught!)
    As you can see, most my thoughts just repeated over and over, giving more subexamples. I didn't get far with that. To me, it seems like a fascinating discovery process.
     
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  15. Ulmo

    Ulmo Active Member

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    It was late. Although my text was exact, it was not very clear. What I meant was that the circuit breaker either tripped or itself was bad or both. "Failed" covered both possible explanations (nonexclusively). The problem is that this is how I received what the Tesla person told me, and I didn't want to misquote him. @ecarfan took care of that. It wasn't made clear to me whether the fault was downstream from the breaker or whether it was the breaker itself, and I didn't feel like it was my place to prod. In retrospect, prodding would have pulled out more details and helped keep the structure of the thoughts more disciplined and not let them wander over to this whole theft idea, which may or may not still be true, but is not at all what the Tesla person told me.
     
  16. Petra

    Petra Member

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    I guess the only problem I have with the theft angle is, realistically, how easy would it be to fence a rather expensive and somewhat specialized high power breaker?
     
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  17. Ulmo

    Ulmo Active Member

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    There have been many reports of down SuperChargers in many other locations over the years. It often causes travel pains for those accustomed to using them. The most recent one I read about that I remember was from @yobigd20, when his car shut down a few hundred feet from his property and he had to run two extension cords out to trickle-charge his car for a long while before it would turn on again to drive it up his driveway to plug it in properly, and meanwhile his neighbor called the police on him for having the car suspiciously in the middle of the road. As far as I'm concerned, he's lucky. The typical situation in which EV's run out of electricity are in colder situations in long distance far away remote areas where there could be a lack of cell phone access, extreme weather, no one around to come help, etc. This is a reminder to bring extreme weather and terrain survival gear if in an EV and going through any type of extreme climates and/or terrain, or bring a caravan with at least one 100D in it.

    More SuperChargers helps. I was able to use an EVGO and then skip Gustine and go to an alternate out-of-way SuperCharger (Gilroy) and make the distance. Increasing the density of SuperChargers in California is a really good idea, at least until the new charging paradigms hit us (what is that, years down the road?).
     
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  18. Ulmo

    Ulmo Active Member

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    #18 Ulmo, Mar 19, 2017
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2017
    It would add a lot of money to construction. They'd have to allow fire fighting. It's not clear to me how to achieve this inexpensively. Maybe working on better cabinet security is a better idea: hidden cameras, license plate readers, fast alarms on the cabinet doors with security guard (and police, if available) intervention, etc. (Most freeway SuperChargers are intentionally placed in such a manner that they end up being far from nearest law enforcement.) But that would be expensive, too.

    Looking at it long term, how often do theft culprits get caught? It might be enough to save on the cost of constructing bunkers. Meanwhile, saving that money and spending it instead on higher density allows the system to be resilient. Just running the numbers through my head: $14,000 breaker + losses due to work and downtime. Additional cost of bunker style cabinet room with additional heavy air movement ducting and fans: around $30,000? Seems rather similar. If it pencils out to cheaper to do it the current way as long as it doesn't severely impact business, then that seems OK. Grainger always inflates everything 2x to 10x. So, let's presume that breaker is closer to $1,400: Then, suddenly the bunker is 10x the cost of the current air-cooled method.

    I'm not trying to downplay how irritating it was to bypass to a Chademo, then drive slow and bypass to Gilroy S.C., but it wasn't really that bad all things considered; I'd say a loss of an hour (including the Chademo I had to use), and in the grand scheme of things OK if it is rare. Compare that in aggregate against the cost to bunkerize the SC, and it seems almost ridiculous to go the super-severe route (except in high prone areas).

    The new feature that the in-car map tells you when a SuperCharger is down is extremely helpful. I've heard it is unreliable, so it still needs backups and such, but it sure saved me last night.

    If the long distance charging paradigm doesn't change much soon, then I'm finding I have a need to get out and walk around and get some food and use bathroom when I'm at a SuperCharger (in short, to handle my energy needs coincident with my car's as well as exercise which is the opposite of my car), and one of the problems I'm having with that right now is that many of the SuperChargers are located where those amenities are not as available as say a Shell, Chevron or ArcoAMPM with minimarts. I was looking forward to the walk over to Love's in Gustine, and getting everything I needed there. Then, when I got to Gilroy, none of that was available (Denny's had a line and everything else was closed). So, it may come to be that future SuperChargers get located in more fuel-stop style style places such as current well equipped well lit (some even 24 hour) gas stations. If that happens, then the types of security available would be different: more traffic, more potential for mischievous people around, and more eyeballs to see what happens in case someone is bad. Suddenly, cultural norms for that area would be prominent in the equation.
     
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  19. Nosken

    Nosken Member

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    I love that the link you provided, there is the ability to "auto reorder-once a month" $14,000
    Weighing in at 28 pounds, I hope this isn't something we have to carry in our charging adapter kit. :)
     
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  20. Petra

    Petra Member

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    No, no... as in fencing stolen goods, not building a security fence.
     
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