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Are electric vehicles to blame for UK's pothole problem?

By Mathilda Bartholomew | July 1, 2024


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Some have claimed that the extra weight of EVs is the main reason for the increasing number of potholes on UK roads. The Asphalt Group, one of the UK's largest road surface treatment companies, wants to clear up the rumours...

Are electric vehicles to blame for UK's pothole problem?

A leading road surface company wants to end the speculation about whether electric vehicles (EVs) are causing more potholes on our roads.

The Asphalt Group, one of the UK's largest road surface treatment companies, is calling for a long-term solution to the ongoing issue of Britain's deteriorating road network.

Some have claimed that the extra weight of EVs, especially large SUVs, is the main reason for the increasing number of potholes. However, the group is clear that the switch to electric vehicles is not responsible for the poor state of our roads.

Stephen Cooke, Asphalt Group’s Managing Director, stated, "Let's be crystal clear, EVs are not the cause of the current state of the UK's roads."

So what is causing the poor condition of UK roads?

"The real reason is a lack of investment in the solutions of the future, and a lack of awareness of what's available," Cooke explains.

"Traditional 'sticky plaster' pothole solutions are simply unacceptable, we need to be thinking bigger picture. Prevent, reinforce and spray treatment is the way forward – not just filler and hope."

The group believes that a more affordable, environmentally friendly, and longer-lasting road network can be achieved with cooperation between road surface and maintenance companies and the government. Road surface improvement is a major topic as the election approaches, with each party outlining their plans to address the issue.

Bill Esterson, Shadow Road and Transport Minister, emphasises that the blame needs to shift away from EVs:  "There are 100 times as many potholes as there are craters on the moon."

"Rather than looking for conspiracy theories and scapegoats, we need a plan to fix the roads. That means replacing the sticking plasters and gimmicks with a sustainable approach and long-term resurfacing and prevention in their place."

"The UK has a £16.3billion backlog of repairs, this is simply unacceptable."

According to the Asphalt Industry Alliance (ALA), the problem is worsening, with pothole numbers in England and Wales reach eight-year high.

Additionally, Channel 4’s Dispatches and the RAC found that local authorities vary greatly in how they classify and address potholes. One-third of councils only fix potholes when they reach a certain depth, regardless of width, leaving many dangerous potholes unrepaired and posing a risk to road users.

A recent report suggested that Britain's pothole problem could be five times worse than previously thought, with an estimated 11.5 million craters on roads. Data from the mobile app Stan the App, which uses AI to identify potholes, supports this finding. Misleading national speculation blames the weight of EVs for road wear, but this is not supported by evidence.

The RAC dismissed these claims, stating, "Any attempt to say the weight of EVs is responsible for a decline in the quality of our roads is a distraction from the reality that our roads have been neglected for too long."

Research from the University of Edinburgh in 2022 highlighted the impact of larger vehicles like buses and heavy goods vehicles on road wear, with minimal impact from cars and motorcycles.

FairCharge founder Quentin Willson added, "Blaming EVs for potholes is laughable since they're only around 3 percent of all vehicles on UK roads."

"I'm pleased that road repair experts, Asphalt Group, and the Shadow Minister for Roads, Bill Esterson, have joined FairCharge's calls for facts and accuracy in the exaggerated media reports linking the weight of EV batteries to road damage."

"Instead, we should focus on how to create long term solutions for fixing the worst levels of potholes that the asphalt industry has seen for 29 years."

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