JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — When the third floor of the Ascension St. Vincent's parking garage collapsed, people evacuating the building got a look at a Tesla left lying on its side. The cause of the collapse is still under investigation, but there are already theories circulating.
After First Coast News shared the story on social media, one comment from a viewer summed up the concern of many:
"So sad. Unfortunately, this will continue to be a problem in the future with the weight of electric vehicles."
Are electric vehicles too heavy for parking garages?
Structural Engineer Consultant Ron Woods
The Florida Building Code
No, electric vehicle are not too heavy for parking garages built to required standards.
WHAT WE FOUND
The first thing we need to establish is that electric vehicles are typically heavier than their gas-powered counterparts.
The 2022 EPA Automotive Trends Report says "due to the weight of battery packs, electric vehicles are likely to weigh more than comparable internal combustion engine vehicles."
Using a Hyundai Kona as an example, the baseline gas-powered 2024 Kona weighs about 3,200 pounds, while the electric version is 3,700 pounds, around 500 pounds heavier.
However, even with that additional weight, Ron Woods says a parking garage should be able to carry it in stride.
"A typical 40 pounds per square foot on a 200 square foot parking space that's 10 feet wide and 20 feet long, would be about 8,000 pounds," said Woods.
The Florida Building Code requires every part of a parking garage be built to that standard of 40 pounds per square foot.
Older parking garages should be able to handle even more weight, because prior to 2010, garages were required to support 50 pounds per square foot.
"The 50 PSF was considered through a lot of research and testing to be overly conservative, so it increased the cost of the building."
2022 EPA Automotive Trends Report shows in 2022, the average car in America clocked in at 4,289 pounds.
Even the heaviest Tesla is only 5,200 pounds, leaving nearly 3,000 pounds of wiggle room.
Woods says EV drivers should feel just fine parking a few floors up and other drivers should feel safe parking below them.
"I would feel just as safe driving an electric vehicle into a parking garage as any other vehicle," said Woods.
First Coast News pulled the permit for the partially collapsed garage at Ascension St. Vincent's Hospital. It was built in 2005. Since it's older than 2010, it was built to the previous and stricter standard, meaning it should be even sturdier than a newer parking garage.
That, of course, did not prevent the collapse, which will be the focus of investigators for some time to come.