Weight of electric vehicles could cause ‘catastrophic’ damage and ‘collapse parking lots’

Weight of electric cars could cause ‘catastrophic’ damage and ‘crush parking lots’: engineers warn most UK parking facilities will be unprepared to handle the sheer weight of newer cars

  • Electric cars are almost twice the weight of standard models
  • The British Parking Association wants local authorities to carry out urgent structural surveys to avoid potential damage
  • Most of the multi-storey and underground facilities were built according to the guidelines based on the weight of the famous 1976 cars

Engineers have warned that multi-storey and underground car parks could collapse under the weight of electric vehicles.

Electric cars, which weigh almost twice as much as standard models, can cause “catastrophic” damage, according to the British Parking Association (BPA), which wants local authorities to carry out urgent structural surveys.

Most of the 6,000 multi-storey and underground facilities in the country were built to guidelines based on the weight of famous 1976 cars, including the Mk 3 Ford Cortina. But the best-selling Tesla Model 3, for example, weighs 2.2 tons fully loaded, making it 50 percent heavier than the 1.4-ton Ford Cortina.

Structural engineer Chris Waples, a member of the BPA representing car park owners, said: ‘If the car is heavier than the car park was originally designed, the effects could be catastrophic. We haven’t had any accidents yet, but I suspect it’s only a matter of time.

Pictured: a parking lot (file photo).  Engineers have warned that multi-storey and underground car parks could collapse under the weight of electric vehicles

Pictured: a parking lot (file photo). Engineers have warned that multi-storey and underground car parks could collapse under the weight of electric vehicles

We have recommended that a load check be performed at all vintage car parks. And the industry is responding.

Electric vehicles are heavier because of the giant battery required to power them, and the reinforced frame and suspension needed to accommodate them.

“All the internal components make these batteries very, very heavy,” Mr. Waples said. At present, the battery makes up the bottom ground for most electric vehicles. It fits over almost the entirety of the vehicle, from axle to axle.

The popularity of electric cars has skyrocketed in recent years. Today there are an estimated 620,000 on UK roads, and 440,000 plug-in hybrid cars that use both petrol and electricity.

One in ten new cars sold in 2021 was electric, while another seven percent were hybrids.

Sales are expected to overtake diesels by the end of this year, a rise fueled by environmental concerns but also by a rise in diesel costs and congestion charges in the city center and ultra-low emissions district of London.

Most of the 6,000 underground multi-storey facilities in the country were built according to the guidelines based on the weight of the 1976 People's Cars.

Most of the country’s 6,000 multi-storey facilities were built according to the guidelines based on the weight of the famous 1976 cars.

But Wabels said risks to infrastructure such as parking lots and bridges remain unrecognized. “When you start to see the weights of the vehicles coming out of the factories, you start to wonder if the current standards are enough,” he added.

The Institution of Structural Engineers is set to update its design recommendations for multi-storey and underground car parks in January, to recommend larger parking bays and the ability to carry increased loads.

This would only affect new buildings, however, and enhancing existing parking lots could be prohibitively expensive.

Meanwhile, Wabels suggests that some parking lots may end up restricting entry to vehicles, based on their weight.

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