Someone Lit An Electrify America Station On Fire, Feds Investigating

Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

A couple of days ago, I came across a very interesting announcement from Electrify America. Using common PR speak, they said, “We are aware of an incident at an Electrify America charging station … and have taken the charging station offline while we investigate.” While most problems with chargers are referred to as “issues” or “technical difficulties,” this one was described as an “incident,” which generally refers to an accident or emergency of some kind. So, I looked into it more.

The PlugShare page for the charger originally had images of a burnt power cabinet, and this comment from someone trying to use the chargers:

The main power modules were burned almost beyond recognition. It will likely be months before they can be replaced. This unit supplies all electrical power to the 4 chargers a few feet away. I spoke with a technician who was trying to assess the damage. This station was officially opened for charging on May 31, 2023, so it did not survive a full year. No more charging for the foreseeable future at this location. The fire did not damage the chargers or the cables, just the main power unit a few feet to the north of the chargers. The EA app has now removed any mention of its existence.

I sent the commenter a message, and he was happy to share a photo that had been removed from PlugShare.

Image courtesy of Robert Brabenec, a local PlugShare user.

The Wrong Answer Some Of Us Speculated On

This image (which made its way onto X/Twitter from screenshots before it was removed) led some people on social media to believe that the power cabinet itself was the source of the fire. Sadly, this theory does have some credibility, as footage of a smoking Electrify America station was floating around on social media in late 2022.

In addition to this footage of a smoking power cabinet, there were multiple stories from PlugShare users and others on social media who reported hearing pops and bangs from power cabinets, with a few people having their vehicle damaged by older Electrify America chargers. Sadly, as the more heavily-used stations went through more heavy duty cycles, these stations started failing a LOT in 2022 and 2023, with these smoking, popping, and vehicle-damaging events leading Electrify America to re-orient the company’s buildout strategy away from network expansion and toward replacing these older stations with newer designs that could survive better.

But, on the other hand, Electrify America has been replacing a lot of these older power modules in recent months. The company won’t reveal whether the new modules are of an upgraded design that will make these stations work well long-term or if they’re just new modules of the same old design that will only buy the company time. We do know that the company has made serious improvements in reliability and speed at the chargers with new modules, though.

I reached out to Electrify America to see if this was an old set of modules that had gone up spectacularly, and the company’s rep told me that assuming that was “premature” because local authorities were investigating the cause of the fire. So, I waited and held the story until the investigation could determine something.

What Really Happened

What came out the next day was a bit of a shock. Electrify America and its suppliers were not to blame at all. The fire was actually arson!

Now, not only state and local, but federal authorities were in on the investigation. This likely means that as an act of arson against interstate commerce, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (aka ATF) is now involved (and doing something other than giving the cartels weapons). While we don’t have much information yet, this federal involvement means that it’s a fairly serious act of arson, so details from the investigation should prove to be interesting.

If you frequent this charger and saw something, or if you have any other information that could help police and federal agents investigate this, you should reach out to Mesa, Arizona’s Police Department

Whodunit? (Some Speculation)

The reason I explored the wrong answer before getting into the limited details of the arson wasn’t only to tell the story as I experienced it. In some ways, this history of minor burning of power modules means this could have been the work of a more sophisticated criminal than we might think. From the photos, it looks like they set the power modules on fire first, which means that the arsonist may have known that this would throw investigators off.

So, it’s possible that the goal of the arsonist here was to discredit Electrify America specifically. But, again, this is only speculation. It could have also been a lucky throw of a Molotov cocktail or whatever they set the station alight with that happened to hit a part known for problems.

This could have also been the work of a less sophisticated person engaging in an act of political violence. Even if they don’t follow Electrify America as closely as enthusiasts and EV journalists do, they probably did know that this was an electric vehicle charging station. Doing something to set the equipment on fire could therefore have been an act aimed at discrediting electric vehicles in general.

One thing I don’t believe for a second is that this wasn’t a targeted act of violence. While people engage in arson for all sorts of reasons, there’s usually some goal or target involved. With bright green lights and what’s obviously an EV charging station, this had to be an act against the station, and thus an act against a target that’s demonized by people like Donald Trump. In recent days, he even painted EVs as a threat to the future of the United States using words like “blood bath” and “assassination.”

As with all forms of stochastic terror, you can’t draw a direct link between the person painting the targets and the person who did it. That’s intentional. But, it’s an effective way for the leaders of political extremist movements to get the results they want without suffering consequences.

So, it’s probably a good idea to increase security and surveillance at other EV charging stations. There should at least be some decent cameras pointed at them to help prosecute people who do stuff like this.

Featured image courtesy of Robert Brabenec.

Have a tip for CleanTechnica? Want to advertise? Want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Latest CleanTechnica.TV Videos

CleanTechnica uses affiliate links. See our policy here.

Jennifer Sensiba

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.

Jennifer Sensiba has 1985 posts and counting. See all posts by Jennifer Sensiba