Heavy electric cars could be a danger for old multi-storey car parks, warn engineers

Could electric cars be banned from car parks? A group of engineers have called for car park designs to evolve to accommodate EVs, or impose a weight limit…

Many multi-storey car parks, designed in the 1960s and 1970s, may be ill-equipped to hold the weight of heavier electric cars, and a group of engineers have called for an update to the car parks’ designs so they are able to cope.

The Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE) believes the structural design of older car parks in Britain needs to be “carefully considered” as heavier EVs, with batteries weighing up to 500kg, sometimes even more, start becoming more and more common on the streets.

But first, to answer your question and quell your fears, the answer to whether electric cars are going to be banned from the car parks is… no. There are no policies in consideration to indicate that to be the case, since IStructE’s advice warns against all heavier vehicles, not just electric cars.

Under the new guidance from the influential group IStructE, there could be further scrutiny to look into the matter, with suggestions to see if they need reinforcing or imposing a maximum weight limit.

“Hybrid and electric vehicle use, together with the need for inclusive design and a far greater emphasis on sustainable solutions, have necessitated a completely new approach to internal layouts and other requirements for structural design,” reads the new report.

Ten experts contributed to the guidance, flagging that the greater weight is putting strain on car parks that were built in the 1960s and 1970s for cars of that day and age.

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The Independent provided the instance of the 1970 Mini 1000, a popular saloon from the day, coming in at 620kg whereas the Kia E-Niro, a contemporary electric car, which weighs 2,230kg, indicating a difference in weight by almost four times.

However, when compared to modern cars with an ICE, a battery-powered EV is heavier only by 10 to 30 per cent. For perspective, the petrol-engine MG HS SE weighs around 1,500 kgs, while the MG4 EV, which was named Car of the Year 2023, weighs just over 1,650 kgs.

Meanwhile, the MINI Electric, with a kerb weight of 1,440kg, is 145kg (or around 10 per cent) heavier than the current MINI Cooper S 3-door with automatic transmission.

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But Institution Fellow, Chris Whapples, who led the team for the review, told the Telegraph that many of the 6,000 multi-storey car parks across the UK could be under pressure.

“Potentially if we just ignore this issue then we could have a partial collapse,” he said. “I’m not trying to create any scaremongering…not all car parks will have to close, 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.”

Mr Whapples-led team’s first suggestion was to see if the parks need strengthening, but if this proves too expensive to some owners, he suggested that a 2,500kg weight limit could be enforced.

“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,” he added. “I think a lot of old owners will opt for imposing a weight limit rather than paying for strengthening measures.”

If a weight limit, let’s say around 2,500kg was to be imposed, that would rule out a good share of petrol and diesel-powered people carriers and vans, not just the electric ones.

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