Battery theft patterns suggest organised operation

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Battery theft is becoming a more organised and calculated challenge for micromobility operators.

Last week Voi revealed that it has had over £500,000 in losses after 700 of its e-scooter batteries were stolen in Liverpool, England. 

Zag Daily spoke with Alexandre Vallette, CEO and Founder of French micromobility battery manufacturer Gouach, who said: “Contrary to the idea of random, sporadic incidents where individuals might steal batteries for personal use, the pattern of these thefts suggests a more organised operation.  

“These batteries are often not directly compatible with personal vehicles, indicating that the thieves possess specific knowledge and intentions for their use.”

Alexandre pinpoints two suspected uses for stolen batteries: employing them as powerwalls or disassembling them to be sold in an aftermarket. 

“However, the process of disassembling these batteries to extract the cells is labour-intensive and technically demanding, raising questions about the motivation behind these thefts,” he said. 

Theft of Voi’s e-scooter batteries

Voi is working with Merseyside Police and Liverpool City Council to tackle e-scooter battery theft that led to six arrests.

Regional General Manager for Voi UK, Ireland and France Jack Samler, told Zag Daily: “Voi is able to track where and when thefts take place, allowing us to work with Liverpool City Council on retrieving CCTV footage and providing intelligence to Merseyside Police to support their investigations.

“We will not tolerate battery theft and will do all we can to make sure perpetrators are prosecuted.”

The thefts have had a significant impact on Voi’s operations. 

“Scooters without batteries cannot be ridden, reducing the number of vehicles available to users at any one time. There is also a significant cost implication with such levels of theft, impacting the financial sustainability of a scheme.”

Irish shared mobility operator Zeus has had to adapt its operations to reduce battery theft. 

“Earlier designs of the Zeus e-scooter were susceptible to battery thefts in the UK but the most recent design has only culminated in one battery theft from the whole fleet,” Zeus brand Zipp’s Head of Growth Steve Pyer told Zag.

Zeus is also helping police identify theft patterns. The operator has assisted Avon and Somerset Police to tackle the issue by providing supporting intelligence and adapting its operations until vandalism rates decreased.

Preventing battery theft

Gouach employs two advanced strategies to address the challenge.

First, its batteries are equipped with a cryptographic chip which means they can only work on Gouach’s customers micromobility vehicles.

“This diminishes their desirability,” Alexandre said.

Second, Gouach is trialling a geolocation mechanism which monitors and analyses battery movements. This enables Gouach to detect irregular patterns which may indicate that the battery has been stolen.

Gouach also directly addresses potential thieves by offering them a practical and legal alternative: tested second-life cells available for just €0.5. 

“This not only provides an affordable option for consumers but also serves as a tongue-in-cheek invitation to potential thieves, suggesting they opt for this legitimate and economical choice instead.”

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