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You Canít Treat Stupid, Design, and ICE

September 10, 2021

Peter Guest

The phrase “You can’t treat stupid” resonated strongly over here in the last week or two, with sweeping statements about the future, based solely on changes that have happened in the last 12 months. Cycling is up. Well of course it is doofus, people have been scared off buses and trains by “The plague”. Add to that traffic down by up to 90 percent and lots of councils have taken advantage of this to implement more cycles lanes. 


Pretty certain that I will know where we will be next year, though. Perhaps the most egregious use of this type of data, though, is our own BOJO the clown who appeared in the media to announce a major crime prevention coup for his government. Street crime and burglary has fallen dramatically, and therefore the government of law and order has scored a major victory. 


Err Um, could the possibility that most people were locked down for a goodly part of the year, and so not on the streets, but were at home guarding their tellies and jewellery have any effect? It certainly did have an impact on the domestic violence figures that skyrocketed during the same period.


Meanwhile, as predictably as rain in an English summer, someone, don’t know who, and care even less, has proposed that Councils should make their town center parking free “to save the high street”. Had to happen, didn’t it? When I was president of the British Parking Association, about 100 years ago, a local shopkeeper was dumb enough to suggest this at a public meeting that I was chairing. 


I asked why my members’ businesses should subsidize his business, and suggested instead that perhaps he should give everyone that parked in my members’ facilities a free bottle of wine. Still waiting for the answer.


Still working on the new car park design book and it’s getting very interesting, particularly in respect of the changes that will be required to cater for the planned change to an all-electric vehicle fleet. First, just how many chargers should be fitted in a car park where every vehicle is electric? Most car parks seem to be installing chargers in anticipation of the change, but it’s just a token number at the moment. 


Despite the small numbers, use is minimal and companies are reporting 15-year payback on the investment. I understand that’s about two uses a week on average. Part of the problem we face in trying to advise is the diversity of charger types and plugs. Right now, I believe that there are at least seven different plug designs and three different technologies: rapid, fast and slow. 


With oil-powered cars it’s easy, one “plug” for each of the fuels, two fuels. Frankly, I don’t think that it’s going to be possible to say much until there is some significant market harmonization. Right now, a friend who sells chargers is telling me that he is being asked to quote for a 100 percent fit out. Others, perhaps optimistically, are saying that there will never be more than 50 percent coverage. What do you think?


Bay size is also exercising our brain cells. Cars are getting bigger, and the “standard” bay of 2.4 x 4.8 m (94.5 x 189 inches) is looking increasingly untenable. Back in 2011, when the last book was published, there were very few cars over 4.8 m long. So, we were happy to say that, if one of these vehicles did park and stick out into the aisle a little, it was no biggie because the chances were that the car parked opposite would be less than 4.8 m. 


Now, we have getting on for 100 different models over this length with nearly 50 over 5 m. So, the bay gets longer, and the deck span gets greater, and all the structural calculations are obsolete. Of course, if we have to allow further space at the back or side of the bay to accommodate an EV charger it only makes matters worse.


Two other big, big issues moving forward which particularly affect existing car parks are edge protection and deck loading. Edge barriers are currently designed to take an impact of a ”design” vehicle at a given speed. 


Now one of the features of an ICE engined car is that when it hits something the engine tends to stall, meaning that there is no further forward force. Electric motors don’t stall; they keep turning, unless the circuitry is damaged; they keep pushing. Further, batteries will add significantly the mass of the vehicle increasing the forces involved. 


Research here has shown that a battery powered car weighs about 35 percent more than the ICE equivalent. However, at the extreme, particularly with something like a powerful, long-range SUV, the weight difference can be nearly a ton. So, a barrier that would just about hold a parking accident with a Range Rover won’t even slow a future battery powered one.


Of even greater concern is what happens when two of these monsters meet in the car park. Right now, the heaviest Range Rover weighs in at about 3.6 U.S. tons. Add another ton or so for a battery pack and the resultant load goes well beyond what most car park decks are built for, at least over here. I suspect that, until a few decks break, no one will take this seriously, but I can see a future where older car parks will have to have a weight limit at the entrance to operate safely.


An interesting thought occurs. Normal social reality is that poorer people tend to be the most disadvantaged. In the future, richer people who can buy bigger cars are likely to find parking increasingly difficult.


And finally, it can be no surprise to anybody that electric scooters are still attracting negative headlines over here. The government are still pushing the mode as a way of getting people out of cars. 


One of the most geographically extensive trials in the West of England has shown however that whereas just 31 percent of users would have otherwise driven, a rather more significant 44 percent would have otherwise walked. Not a ringing endorsement then.



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