EVs on the scales
Car parks fighting for survival as electric vehicles enter the ring
Multi-storey car parks could collapsing due to the weight of electric vehicles (EVs).
The warning comes from experts looking at the changing face of personal transport and how it fits into the current infrastructures, regulations and planning.
Electric cars, which are roughly twice as heavy as standard models. Planning and architecture modelling works on old data, but the realities of the electric age will have repercussions not previously considered. For car parks, the weight difference could cause serious damage to floors and weight tolerance levels. This is even more serious for older, unloved structures, which are most at risk of buckling.
Many multi storey parking systems were designed and built in previous decades. Add to this the fact that austerity policies over the last decade have seen local authorities cut back on many maintenance programmes. It is similar in the private sector, simply adding to potential and previously unrealised issues.
New guidance is now being developed recommending higher load bearing weights to accommodate the heavier vehicles.
Need to work out
Chris Whapples, a structural engineer and car park consultant, is at the forefront of these new measures. They are due to be published in the coming weeks.
‘I don’t want to be too alarmist, but there definitely is the potential for some of the early car parks in poor condition to collapse,’ he told The Telegraph.
‘Operators need to be aware of electric vehicle weights, and get their car parks assessed from a strength point of view, and decide if they need to limit weight.’
Most of the nation’s 6,000 multi-storey and underground facilities were built according to guidance based on the weight of popular cars of 1976, including the Mk 3 Ford Cortina.
But the electric cars currently on the UK market are far bulkier. For instance, the best-selling Tesla Model 3 weighs 2.2 tons fully loaded, making it more than 50 per cent heavier than a 1.4-tonne Cortina.
Electric vehicles are heavier predominantly because of the batteries used to power them, and the reinforced framework and suspension needed to accommodate them.
Hugo Griffiths, an investigative journalist, issued a warning last year: ‘Cars have been getting heavier for some time now. Back in the 1970s, a family car like the Ford Cortina weighed less than 1,000kg, while the original Range Rover was a tonne or so lighter than its modern-day counterpart.
‘Consumer demand and technological advancements have seen a rise in the number of creature comforts fitted to cars, with features including electric windows and climate control piling on the pounds.
‘Safety improvements have also led to increasing weights. Side-impact bars, airbags, laminated glass and traction-control systems help prevent collisions or reduce their severity, but features that make cars safer also tend to increase their mass.
‘Added to this is the push towards electrification: a petrol engine might weigh 150kg or so, while an EV battery pack can easily come in at 500kg.’
Electric cars have soared in popularity in recent years. One in ten new cars sold in 2021 was electric, while a further 7% were hybrid.
The government also recently published its Zero Emissions vehicle mandate, putting restrictions on how many non-EV cars can be sold in the coming years.
By 2035, it is expected that four in five miles driven are expected to come from electric vehicles.