Hidden cost of road maintenance due to the increased weight of battery and hydrogen trucks and buses – a perspective

John Low*, Robert Stuart Haszeldine, Gareth Harrison

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Decarbonisation of transport emissions is essential to meet climate targets. For road transport, currently available technologies are battery electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles. Battery vehicles are more established than hydrogen; both could deliver the emissions reduction required. However, battery vehicles are considerably heavier than equivalent hydrogen vehicles, which are in turn slightly heavier than internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles; a heavier vehicle will have a bigger impact on road wear and associated costs. Here we carry out a desk-based analysis, developed in 2021–2022, examining the impact and cost of the increased weight of zero emissions vehicles on road wear in an entire national vehicle fleet. The novelty is in the first quantified application of the long-understood relationship between axle load and road wear to the problem of the additional weight of zero emissions vehicles. This leads to an approximate quantification of additional costs of road maintenance as the vehicle fleet transitions to zero emissions vehicles. We examine these in four scenarios: all battery vehicles; all hydrogen vehicles; a combination; current ICE vehicles for comparison. We find 20–40% additional road wear associated with battery vehicles compared to ICE vehicles; hydrogen leads to a 6% increase. This is overwhelmingly caused by large vehicles – buses, heavy goods vehicles. Smaller vehicles make a negligible contribution. Governmental bodies liable for road maintenance may wish to set weight limits on roads, require additional axles on heavier vehicles, or construct new roads to a higher standard, to decrease road wear.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalClean Technologies and Environmental Policy
Early online date5 Dec 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Dec 2022


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