Across the globe, engineers are considering what heavier EVs mean for our transportation infrastructure.
The broad adoption of electric vehicles will bring with it several changes in how we think about transportation infrastructure. One of the biggest contrasts between the current slate of EVs and internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEV) is that they are significantly heavier – often weighing over a ton or more than ICEVs. Long-time readers of Conduit Street will remember that the additional weight of EVs will likely mean a change to road composition. Asphalt, which is cheap to use in mass quantities, erodes significantly faster under the additional weight. Concrete, on the other hand, is much more durable but also more expensive and produces significant carbon emissions.
The challenges of EVs don’t end at the roads, parking garages must also be reconsidered. As consumers trend toward larger and larger vehicles, whether they be EVs or ICEVs, parking garages are being put through incredible and increasing stress. The main issue isn’t necessarily that EVs weigh more but that as cars get both larger and heavier, the scales of magnitude in weight start to work against the garage’s favor. It’s not inconceivable to see some garages start reaching the end of their lifespans quicker. Garage operators may need to consider segregating certain levels based on vehicle weight, with large EVs or ICEVs limited to lower levels.
Fire remediation also poses a major challenge. A fire in an ICEV is hazardous, but EV fires are incredibly toxic and extremely difficult to extinguish. Not only do EV fires burn hotter and longer, but their fumes are also highly toxic. Older parking garages will certainly need upgraded suppression systems. In many parts of the state, counties are already providing additional training and tools for firefighters.
EVs are the indisputable future of American transportation. Electrification offers an avenue to reduce carbon emissions and fight climate change. But as these new technologies become increasingly mainstream, counties must be ready for the realities and challenges that come with them.