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There’s certainly no shortage of controversy about electric vehicles. We don’t have to dive too deep into that at the moment. What’s no secret, though, is that electric cars are much heavier than their gasoline counterparts. As more and more people adopt EVs, some folks are calling to attention things that you might not consider. For example, the weight of a parking garage full of EVs.

Older multi-level parking garages are not built to take the weight of EVs

A gray Tesla Model Y parked and charging in a garage. The Tesla Model Y Juniper might borrow from the Model 3 refresh.
Tesla Model Y | Tesla

According to CNBC, the average weight of a vehicle increased from 1.5 metric tons in 1974 to 2 metric tons in 2023. That’s an increase of over 1,000 pounds on average. So, when you start stacking that extra weight in the form of dozens of cars, you quickly start to approach the maximum weight a structure is engineered for.

Because of this, the London-based Institution of Structural Engineers put out a document covering a new procedure for parking garage design to accommodate the extra weight of EVs as well as a couple of other safety factors. Namely, the difficulty of extinguishing a fire when it comes to electric vehicles.

“It is something we have to consider, but we mustn’t be too alarmist about it. The thing to bear in mind is that the ones that cause the damage, if you like, are the heavy vehicles — not the vehicles that are heavier than they were 40 years ago but still within the capacity of the design for car parks,” said Chris Whapples a fellow of the institution and contributor to the guidance as an author and overseeing consultant.

Electric Cars present a challenge when it comes to structural fires

The Felicity Ace cargo ship on fire 2023
Felicity Ace cargo ship | Portuguese Naval Forces / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty

Why Are Electric Cars so Divisive?

Despite the fact that electric cars catch fire less than gasoline cars, there’s no shortage of folks who think the opposite. At any rate, electric vehicle fires are substantially more difficult to extinguish than a standard internal combustion engine fire.

Because of this, the Institution of Structural Engineers also dives into fire suppression in more modern parking garages. The recommendation is for parking garages to have a sprinkler system. While a standard fire sprinkler system won’t necessarily extinguish an EV fire, it can suppress it and prevent it from spreading throughout the rest of the parking garage.

Whapples also pointed out that it’s not just EVs that are presenting this problem. Big luxury sedans, the shift of fascination to SUVs, and variables like overloaded pickup trucks all contribute to the issue.

Ultimately, engineering structures to support additional weight is a necessary move to support a number of variables. In addition, adding fire safety is something that isn’t even worth trying to argue against. As with any new and growing technology, there are hurdles to clear.