Dr Chris Vagg interviewed on BBC Radio Bristol

Dr Chris Vagg, Lecturer in Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems (Electrification), has given a live interview on BBC Radio Bristol, providing expert commentary on whether increased adoption of electric cars among consumers could potentially lead to severe damage to the UK’s roads due to the associated heavier weight of EVs.

The discussion came in the wake of the Government’s “Build Back Greener” Net Zero Strategy paper, which was published on the same day and which announced a push towards electrification of the transport system as well as increased investment in the necessary infrastructure.

Radio host John Darvall quoted a common assumption that pure electric vehicles may weigh up to four tons, considerably more than conventional petrol or diesel cars. He questioned whether current roads would be able to take the weight or whether this could lead to billions of pounds worth of damage, creating a new problem altogether.

Applauding the Government’s announcement to invest in more charging points for electric cars, calling it “the right direction we should be going in”, Vagg went on to explain: “I’ve not seen cars that weigh quite that much. The capacity of a battery pack is measured in kilowatt hours; the typical weight is about 100 kilos per 20 kilowatt hours. So, if you’re looking at a very large battery pack, something like a Tesla for instance might have with 100kw hours or so, you’d be looking at up to a maximum of 500kg. So, they are certainly heavier than petrol or diesel cars, but not to the extend as has been suggested. At least not for a like for like vehicle.”

Regarding potential damage to road networks, he added: “It’s possible; everything has consequences, and you can’t always foresee the consequences when we go into something. But cars have been getting bigger for years. When you look back at the weights of cars from the 80s, they are probably half the weight of what they are now. The weight is creeping up, certainly, and time will tell whether this has an incremental effect on the road quality and degradation.”

Concluding his assessment, Vagg remarked that consumers need to be educated to drive vehicles – electric or conventional – that are appropriate for the length of their journey. “The bigger issue is that we need to persuade people not to drive monster trucks, basically. The same applies to EVs, in some respects. We don’t need to be driving round in vehicles with enormous battery packs as that’s in a lot of respects quite wasteful. So, if we can find the right policies to encourage people to drive cars with moderately sized battery packs and the right technical solutions that allow them to go the distance that they need to do, then that’s all part of the bigger puzzle”.

To listen to the full recording of the interview, click here (starting at 3:44:21).