Electric cars too heavy for old multi-storey car parks, engineers warn

multi storey
multi storey

Heavy electric cars could be banned from old multi-storey car parks, engineers have warned.

The Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE) has said that weight limits should be imposed on older buildings to cope with the increasingly heavy new electric vehicles following a review.

Chris Whapples, an IStructE fellow and overseeing consultant for the review, said: “I think a lot of old owners will opt for imposing a weight limit rather than paying for strengthening measures.”

New electric vehicles are much heavier than the average petrol or diesel car and EV batteries account for much of this, usually weighing around 500kg.

They typically make the car much heavier than the ones manufactured in the 1960s and 1970s, when many car parks were built.

There are 6,000 multi-storey car parks across the UK, and the review warned that the unloved structures are most susceptible to buckling under the added weight.

Design recommendations

Mr Whapples said: “Potentially if we just ignore this issue then we could have a partial collapse.”

He added: “I’m not trying to create any scaremongering, and I want to emphasise that not all 6,000 multi-storey car parks across the UK have to be closed.

“It’s only the very old ones, built in the 60s and 70s, which are in a very poor state of repair and have weakened over time which will probably need to have some work done to them.

“It’s not the little city electric cars that are likely to be a problem or the average family saloon, but some of the top-end electric vehicles like executive saloons or SUVs which are about three tonnes or over which could potentially be overloading some of these older multi-storey car parks.”

Over the past two years, Mr Whapples has led a team of 10 engineers, commissioned by IStructE, to update design recommendations for multi-storey car parks.

The review proposes that car park owners have their buildings inspected by engineering firms to see if they need to be strengthened.

If this is too expensive owners may have to impose a vehicle weight limit of up to two-and-a-half tonnes.

However, the growth in electric vehicles combined with crumbling parking infrastructure has prompted concerns in the sector.

The current Tesla Model 3 weighs 1,672kgs, compared to the 768kg Ford Cortina Mark 1. The Audi E-Tron weighs 2,351kg, compared to the 770kg Vauxhall Viva, while even the Nissan Leaf weighs 1,580kg.

Meanwhile, the Government recently published its Zero Emissions vehicle mandate, which puts restrictions on how many non-electric vehicles can be sold in the coming years, ahead of the outright ban on sales in 2030.

It is expected that by 2035, four in five miles driven will come from EVs.

Mr Whapples previously told The Telegraph: “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.

“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.”

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