Heavy EVs Pose Threat of Parking Structure Collapses
The real-world reality of EVs like the GMC Hummer, which weighs almost 10,000 lbs, is starting to pose unintended concerns. With so many concrete multi-level parking structures throughout the world, how many can hold up to the extra weight that comes with today’s EVs? Can they withstand a gang of Rivian pickups that weigh over 7,000 lbs each?
Is the U.S. looking into potential parking structure collapses?
The safety concern is now front and center in the UK, where, as in the U.S., many older parking structures exist. “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,” structural engineer Chris Whapples told The Telegraph. “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.”
If maintenance has not been kept up at these older parking structures, structural flaws are “baked in” according to building supply company Sika’s senior technical manager Steve Holmes. Many Ford F-150 Lightnings come close to 7,000 lbs, while gas-powered F-150s range between 4,000 and 5,700 lbs. So all EVs pose added stresses when combined into one stacked car park.
Have there been parking structure collapses?
A lot of these structures are from the 1960s and 1970s. Back then, Volkswagen Beetles and Ford Pintos were popular and common. The VW weighed under 2,000 lbs, while the Pinto was just a tad heavier. A 2023 Chevrolet Bolt weighs over 3,500 lbs, while a Tesla Model 3 ranges from 3,700 to over 4,200 lbs.
Remember the Surfside condominium collapse in Miami, Florida, in 2021? It collapsed due to poor maintenance of the underground concrete parking structure. Corrosion of the steel rebar to strengthen the concrete was the issue. The condominiums, built in 1981, also had corrosion issues being close to the ocean.
What can be done for older concrete structures?
So the parking structures don’t have to be ancient to be prone to decaying structural support. Due to these concerns, the UK’s British Parking Association is ready to release more stringent guidelines. The aim is for more thorough inspections, and then correcting anything found from those inspections.
“We have done quite a few inspections of car parks over the last six months. Some prove that the buildings couldn’t withstand the new EV weights,” said BPA chair Russell Simmons. For those found to have issues, either reducing the number of cars on each level or weight limits for cars will allow them to get by. The BPA is raising its design criteria for weight caps from 2.5 kilonewtons per square meter to 3 kilonewtons.
And for those who choose to drive heavier EVs like the GMC Hummer, parking outside of, or on the ground floor of a parking structure might be a smart consideration.