CREDIT: Unsplash

Electric vehicle (EV) adoption rates are growing globally, which is great for the environment. But current parking structures and roads might struggle to support the vehicles’ weight.

According to Sustainability by Numbers, the average car weighs approximately 1,600 kilograms. Not light by any means, but electric vehicles of the same capacity weigh in significantly more. For example, a Tesla Model 3 weighs 1,830 kilograms.

But why the weighty difference? And is it good or bad?

It’s all in the battery. A Tesla Model 3 car battery weighs in at approximately 489 kilograms, whereas a typical car battery weighs between 11 and 25 kilograms. This Tesla is one of the heavier car batteries out there but it’s also Tesla’s biggest seller.

There are definitive pros to the heavyweight EV, such as a lower center of gravity, increasing road stability and handling ability. Ultimately this makes the car safer and less likely to roll during an accident. Rolling accidents were responsible for 21 percent of car-occupant deaths in 2021.

The safety benefits coupled with environmental betterment makes the EV sound like a great option. So, what’s the downside?

IMAGE: Unsplash

Well it could be a parking garage.

An overload of vehicles on the roof was the cause of a 2023 parking garage collapse in New York City. And as we see more EVs on the roads, this could be an issue going forward.

This particular parking garage had structural issues prior to the collapse, but countries with older infrastructures and codes might have to address these risks.

The typical parking structure is designed to last up to 40 years. An aging parking garage will struggle under the weight of automotive load that is 30 percent heavier than it was built to sustain.

The average vehicle weight — not just for EVs but for all vehicles — has been on the rise every year since 1981, reports the Environmental Protection Agency. And we’re not just looking at parking garage issues — roads are also at risk.

The American Society of Civil Engineers’ infrastructure report for 2021 indicates that “43 percent of … (United States) public roadways are in poor or mediocre condition.” It also says that “federal, state and local governments will need to prioritize strategic investments dedicated to improving and preserving roadway conditions that increase public safety on the system we have in place, as well as plan for the roadways of the future, which will need to account for connected and autonomous vehicles.”

After all, no one wants to fall into a pothole in their new Tesla.

IMAGE: Unsplash

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, an axle-weight increase from 8,000 kilograms to 9,000 kilograms — increasingly likely as more semi trucks switch to electric — causes 50 percent more pavement damage.

But what’s the solution?

A 2024 article in suggests that the codes need an upgrade to support the increasing demand of EVs, especially since charging stations are typically grouped together. This means extra and consistent weight constraints in the same areas of a parking structure.

The article concludes, “It is possible that the risk of catastrophic structural failures in the future could jeopardize the viability of EV technology as part of national efforts to reduce carbon emissions. Engineers and contractors have an opportunity to contribute to providing sound infrastructure to enable EV technology to be part of the fight against climate change.”

The authoring engineers, led by principal James McDonald of Simpson, Gumpertz and Heger, a U.S. structural engineering firm, recommend a comprehensive preventative plan that includes: monitoring parking garages typically inhabited by EVs; limiting EV access to areas in the structure that can better manage excess weight; imposing a weight limit; and even distribution of EV parking spots.

Forbes Magazine in 2022 reported that preventative measures are much less costly than reactive action. The cost of repaving 1 mile of road ranges from U.S.$100,000 to U.S.$1,000,000.

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