Electric cars to get green number plates under government plan

Electric cars to get green number plates under government plan
Electric cars to get green number plates under government plan

Electric cars could be fitted with green number plates to make them easier to identify, under new government proposals.

The Department for Transport has launched a consultation on fitting different number plates to EVs and other zero-emissions vehicles as part of its £1.5 billion Road to Zero strategy, which aims to cut the country’s CO2 emissions.

It says the move would “celebrate and encourage” the uptake of zero-emissions vehicles as well as making it easier to identify them so drivers can take advantage of local incentives.

A DfT spokesman said: “As the UK moves at pace towards net zero emissions, the initiative aims to raise awareness of the increasing number of zero tailpipe emission vehicles on UK roads, help their drivers to benefit more easily from local incentives like free or cheaper parking and encourage greater uptake of new vehicle technology.”

A similar scheme trialled in Ontario, Canada saw EVs given free access to toll lanes and high occupancy vehicle lanes and the DfT claims this helped increase EV take-up in the province.

Increasing awareness

green number plate design options
Three designs are being considered for the zero-emissions licence plates (Image: Department for Transport)

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “The UK is in the driving seat of global efforts to tackle vehicle emissions and climate change and improve air quality, but we want to accelerate our progress.

“Green number plates are a really positive and exciting way to help everyone recognise the increasing number of electric vehicles on our roads.

“By increasing awareness of these vehicles and the benefits they bring to their drivers and our environment, we will turbo-charge the zero emission revolution.”

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EV ownership has increased significantly in the UK in the last year but the vehicles still account for a tiny proportion of all new cars sold. Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders show that registrations of EVs doubled in the first nine months of 2019 to 25,000 but that still represents just 1.3 per cent of the total market.

Fostering resentment

The RAC said that while the Government was right to be encouraging the take-up of EVs, green number plates were unlikely to make much difference.

RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said: “While the sentiment seems right, there are question marks as to whether drivers would see this as a badge of honour or alternatively it could foster resentment among existing drivers of petrol and diesel vehicles.

“On the face of it, drivers we’ve questioned don’t seem too impressed – only a fifth think it’s a good idea and the majority said the number plates wouldn’t have the effect of making them any more likely to switch to an electric vehicle.

bus lane
EV drivers could be able to take advantage of incentives such as being allowed to use bus lanes (Photo: Shutterstock)

“Incentives may make a difference in the short term and the possibility of free parking and the permission to use bus lanes at certain times could encourage some to switch, however many drivers remain cool on the idea even with this encouragement. Also, if these perks were to do their job and encourage people to switch, councils would have to quickly get rid of them again as they’d be losing parking revenue and no doubt be accused of allowing bus lanes to become clogged with electric vehicles. Given their relatively high upfront costs, only those drivers that could afford to make the switch to an electric vehicle would benefit – leaving the vast majority who still rely on petrol and diesel cars losing out.

“We continue to believe that the best way of encouraging drivers to ‘go electric’ is for the Government to be providing the right financial incentives at the point of purchase, and investing in better charging infrastructure.”

Read more: Electric cars’ lifetime CO2 emissions half that of petrol and diesel

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