The Mail on Sunday

Weight of two-ton electric vehicles ‘could cause car parks to collapse’

- By Isolde Walters

MULTI-STOREY and undergroun­d car parks could collapse under the weight of electric vehicles, engineers have warned.

Electric cars, which are roughly twice as heavy as standard models, could cause ‘catastroph­ic’ damage, according to the British

Parking Associatio­n (BPA), which wants local authoritie­s to conduct urgent structural surveys.

Most of the nation’s 6,000 multistore­y and undergroun­d facilities were built according to guidance based on the weight of popular cars of 1976, including the Mk3 Ford Cortina. But the bestsellin­g Tesla Model 3, for example, weighs 2.2 tons fully loaded, making it more than 50 per cent heavier than a 1.4-ton Ford Cortina.

Structural engineer Chris Whapples, a member of the BPA which represents car-park owners, said: ‘If a vehicle is heavier than the car park was originally designed for, the effects could be catastroph­ic. We’ve not had an incident yet, but I suspect it is only a matter of time.

‘We have recommende­d that a loading check is performed on all older car parks. And the industry is responding.’

Electric vehicles (EVs) are heavier because of the giant battery required to power them, and the reinforced framework and suspension needed to accommodat­e it.

‘All the internal components make these batteries very, very heavy,’ said Mr Whapples. ‘Nowadays, the battery forms the underfloor of most EVs. It’s contained over virtually the entire footprint of the vehicle, from axle to axle.’

Electric cars have soared in popularity in recent years. Today there are an estimated 620,000 on the road in the UK, and 440,000 plug-in hybrids which use both petrol and electric.

One in ten new cars sold in 2021 was electric, while a further seven per cent were hybrid.

Sales are expected to outstrip diesel motors by the end of this year, a rise

‘No incident yet, but it is only a matter of time’

fuelled by environmen­tal concerns but also the rise in diesel costs, citycentre congestion charging and the Ultra Low Emission Zone in London.

But Mr Whapples said that the accumulati­ng risks to infrastruc­ture like car parks and bridges remain unacknowle­dged. ‘When you start to see the weights of the vehicles that are coming out of the factories, you start to question whether existing standards are adequate,’ he added.

The Institute 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 an ability to withstand increased loads.

This will affect only new buildings, however – and strengthen­ing existing car parks could prove prohibitiv­ely expensive.

In the meantime, Mr Whapples suggests that some car parks could end up restrictin­g vehicles from entering, based on their weight.

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