The rapid roll-out of electric vehicles (EVs) across the world is causing more stress on road networks, and this will provide a future source of demand for bitumen as the road paving oil product.

EVs weigh considerably more than gasoline or diesel-powered vehicles owing to their batteries. Ford’s electric-powered F-150 Lightning truck weighs 35pc more than the traditional Ford F-150 model that uses an internal combustion engine. The additional weight directly causes more stress on paved roads, accelerating their degradation, which in turn increases the frequency with which they need to be resurfaced.

A recent study by the University of Leeds showed EVs place 2.24 times more stress on roads compared with gasoline-powered cars and 1.95 times more than diesel-fuelled cars. Vehicles that weigh more than two tonnes cause the most damage, exerting 2.32 times more stress on roads. The analysis from the university used the "fourth power formula", which is used by highway engineers to assess the damage caused to roads by heavier vehicles. The formula means that if the weight on a vehicle’s axle is doubled, it does 16 times more damage to the road.

Recent figures from the European Automobile Manufacturers Association showed strong growth in the European EV market, with sales up by just over 70pc in May from a year earlier. EVs registered in the UK rose by almost 60pc on the year in April, data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders show. The rapid growth in EV adoption is evident, and stress on roads around the world will only increase in the future.

The latest Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance survey showed the one-time cost of bringing roads in England and Wales up to a "reasonable" standard increased by nearly 11pc year on year to £14.02bn ($17.14bn) in 2022, the highest it has ever been. The adoption of EVs will only inflate this figure going forward and worsen the UK's pothole crisis.

The wider adoption of polymer modified bitumen (PMB) grades may help alleviate this issue as PMBs give roads more flexibility and this helps enhance road performance by absorbing traffic vibration. PMB grades command a significant premium to standard road paving grades such as pen 50/70 and 70/100. This would increase the costs of road repair at a time when government budgets for road building and maintenance are already being squeezed by high inflation.

Author Tom Woodlock, Market Reporter