An estimated 4 in 5 vehicles will be electric on UK roads (and bridges) by 2035
An estimated 4 in 5 vehicles will be electric on UK roads (and bridges) by 2035 Credit: Monty Rakusen/Digital Vision

Councils receive notice that EVs are 33 per cent heavier than petrol vehicles – and 1 in 20 bridges are ‘substandard’

Councils should check the weight limits on bridges to ensure they don’t collapse with heavier electric cars travelling across them, ministers have suggested.

The news comes after concerns were raised that multi-storey car parks might collapse if too many electric vehicles (EVs), which can weigh as much as 33 per cent more than traditional petrol cars, are parked on them.

Tory MP Greg Knight asked in the Commons whether Transport Secretary Mark Harper or other Cabinet colleagues might assess the “adequacy of the strength of multi-storey car parks and bridges at safely bearing the additional weight of electric vehicles”.

Transport minister Jesse Norman said that it was up to councils to decide whether “weight limits” should be applied to their bridges.

Mr Norman replied: “Local highway authorities are responsible for maintenance and management of their respective local highway networks, including any bridges that they own.

“It is for local authorities to decide what weight limits, if any, should be applied to any of their bridges because of the type or structural condition of the bridge or its inability to support heavy vehicles.”

33 per cent heavier

Sir Greg told The Telegraph that councils could check the specification of the plans for the bridges when they were constructed to ensure they can support the extra weight of the vehicles.

He said: “Electric vehicles can be up to 33 per cent heavier than the equivalent petrol propelled vehicle and it is important that those, who ensure our roads and bridges are safe, factor them into account.

“I don’t want to see reduced weight limits. But we don’t want to see accidents happening. This is something that needs to be looked at.

“The increasing number of electric [cars] and lorries means that this is something that needs to be taken into account by those who have responsibility for it.”

Last month, car park experts raised concerns about the ability of some ageing car parks ability to handle the weight as the number of electric vehicles grew.

Russell Simmons, chair of the British Parking Association’s structures group, told The Telegraph that he had carried out inspections of multi-storey car parks in the UK over the last six months which would not have been able to withstand new EV weights.

Electric vehicles are generally heavier than petrol counterparts because of the weight of their batteries, which can weigh around 500kg.

Earlier this year, Jennifer Homendy, the chair of the US National Transportation Safety Board, found that the best-selling EVs in the US were on average 33 per cent heavier than petrol counterparts. The difference will likely be similar for vans and heavy goods vehicles (HGVs).

4 out of 5 by 2035

In the coming years the number of electric vehicles is expected to rapidly expand, with the government’s most ambitious estimates predicting that four in five miles driven by 2035 will be by EVs. It also estimates that by around that time 79 per cent of van miles will be electric and 40 per cent of HGV miles.

Analysis by the RAC Foundation earlier this year, found that one in 20 bridges across the country were deemed to be substandard. While one in 24 could not carry the heaviest vehicle on the roads, mainly lorries.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “At the end of World War II there were around 3 million cars on the country’s roads. Today there are about 33 million and the prospect of them getting heavier, combined with near-record levels of traffic volume, underlines the pressure our road infrastructure faces, not least bridges.

“There are more than 3,000 council bridges in Britain that are deemed ‘substandard’ meaning they can’t carry the heaviest vehicles, mainly lorries, now seen on our roads.”

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