Image by Q K from Pixabay

Will Electric Cars Collapse Multi-Story Car Parks (Parking Garages)?

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There have been a spate of articles appearing recently that have put a spotlight on the weight of electric vehicles potentially damaging older multi-story carparks. My concern is there might be an element of truth in this regarding older structures. However, Australia has moved over the last ten years from having many compact and medium size cars on the road to a plethora of large, heavy SUVs and tradies’ utes. I fear that these might be more of a problem.

Mums used to pick up their children from school in a Kia Rio or a Ford Fiesta. Now it is more likely to be a massive SUV (perhaps a Kia Carnival or Ford Ranger). Tradies’ utes used to be a sedan front with a tray back. Now they have morphed into monster trucks. As an example, the Toyota Hilux (Australia’s highest selling vehicle) has increased in size from 1.5 tons (3062 lb) in the model year 2000 to 2.3 tons (4596 lb) in 2023. That’s almost a 50% increase in weight. Yet no one has been concerned about parking 30 of these on the top floor of the multi-story car park when you visit the hospital!

As regular readers know, I used to be the proud owner of a 1964 Wolseley 6/80. This vehicle was considered large and powerful in the UK in the ’60s and ’70s. I know, I lived there. George, as we called the Wolseley, weighed 1.2 tons (2690 lb). At the same time, I also owned a Hyundai Accent (Ruby), which weighed about the same (2467 lb). The family touring car was a Hyundai Sonata, weighing in at 1.7 tons (3494 lb).

My Tesla Model 3 SR weighs 1.8 tons (3582 lb), not appreciably more than my late V6 Sonata. I think I am beginning to smell FUD on the rise! No one was concerned if a few Sonatas parked on the top floor of the car park! And what if you have four passengers in the car weighing 100 kg each on average (not unusual these days)? That’s an extra 500 kg or 1100 lb, or half a ton, meaning the loaded weight of the Sonata would exceed two tons. Do we make them get out of the car on the bottom floor so we can qualify to park higher up?

According to the British Parking Association, no UK car parks have banned electric cars. They said that “there was no evidence to show that the weight of electric cars is an issue. While we recognise that large cars with bigger, more expensive batteries weigh more, this issue is not specific to electric cars.”

When I picked up my granddaughters from school this afternoon, over half the vehicles in the car park (not a multi-story one) were large SUVs, large utes, and people movers — the Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Carnival, RAM, Nissan Navara, etc. On a positive note, I also saw two Tesla Model 3s, one Kia Niro EV, and a BYD. Why are consumers buying larger and heavier vehicles? Express suggests that customers want more luxury and the perception of safety.

Multi-Storey carparks
Small car sandwiched between a Toyota Landcruiser and a Mitsubishi Triton in a school car park. Photo courtesy of Majella Waterworth.

Yet, motoring websites are warning their readers that “multi-level car parks around the world including in Australia could face serious risk of structural failure and collapse due to the increasing weight of electric vehicles (EVs) on aging infrastructure.…” Guidelines are being developed so that new multi-level car parks can support heavier vehicles. I look at what is on the road and think, “Thank goodness for that!” But it’s not just EVs. Even the ubiquitous Toyota Corolla has almost doubled in weight in the last 20 years, going from 0.6 tons (1187 lb) in 2001 to 1.5 tons (3031 lb) now. Maybe it’s the weight of that added HEV engine?

“In the UK, the soon to be replaced government guidelines for a normal mix of vehicles takes the maximum weight of any vehicle as 2500kg [2.8 tons or 5511 lb] with the imposed uniformly distributed load as 2.5kN/m2 (BS EN 1991-1-1).” That seems to mean that most EVs will be OK to park. Of the heaviest EVs chosen to highlight the weight issue by “Car Expert,” the Tesla Model X (5441 lb = 2468 kg = 2.7 tons) would be OK, but it might be better to park your GM Hummer EV (8800 lb= 4000 kg = 4.4 tons) and Ram 1500 (a similar weight) outside — just check that the ground isn’t too soft.

Vehicles that are too heavy to park in a multi-story car park will have difficulty parking anywhere. The petrol Hummer is listed as weighing 9640 lb (strangely, 640 lb more than the electric) and the Ram 1500 petrol as over 5000 lb. There are quite a few petrol Rams on the road in Australia, but the Tesla Model X is rare and getting rarer, as no new models are being imported. The Hummer (in any version) is extremely rare. So, these are not likely to cause the collapse of a parking station in the near future.

Chris Whapples, a structural engineer, car park consultant, and author of the new guidelines for the British government, said, “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,” as quoted in The Telegragh.

Australian standards do not list a weight limit on vehicles in car parks.

My contention is that EVs don’t weigh much more than their petrol equivalents. Look at models that have 3 drivetrain options, such as the MG ZS, which comes with a petrol powertrain (weighing 2767 lb), as a full battery electric (weighing  3410 kg), and as a plugin hybrid (3913 lb). As you would expect, with two drivetrains, the PHEV is the heaviest option. Maybe PHEVs should be banned from multi-story car parks?

Some suggest that carpark operators may impose weight limits rather than pay for engineering assessments and a possible retrofit. However, these restrictions should be based on weight, not drivetrain! And how would you enforce it? Building a weighing bridge in a car park structure may be more expensive than strengthening older structures to handle the weight of newer vehicles.

Yes, we should maintain our multi-story carparks, and yes, we should set weight limits. However, I would conclude from my amateur analysis (all weights from Google searches) that it is more likely to be the huge tradie trucks and SUVs that cause a collapse than a herd of electric vehicles. However, if you go to park and the top floor is full of Tesla Model Xs, Ram 1500 electrics, and Hummer EVs — drive gently out and park as far away as possible.

Featured image by Q K from Pixabay

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David Waterworth

David Waterworth is a retired teacher who divides his time between looking after his grandchildren and trying to make sure they have a planet to live on. He is long on Tesla [NASDAQ:TSLA].

David Waterworth has 719 posts and counting. See all posts by David Waterworth