Green number plates for electric cars: Government to hold consultation

The Government will hold a consultation on whether electric cars and others should be fitted with green number plates

A consultation will be held on whether zero-emission vehicles should be given green number plates, the Government has announced.

The Department for Transport (DfT) says giving zero-emission vehicles – including electric cars – green number plates would give local authorities a visual identifier which they could use to enforce incentives for the drivers of such vehicles, like allowing them to use bus lanes or pay less for parking.

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In preparation for the consultation, the DfT has revealed three potential designs for a green number plate. The first is an all-green plate, the second is a standard white or yellow number plate with a green column at the left-hand side, and the third is the same standard plate with a green circle instead of a column.

The Road to Zero

The consultation is part of the DfT’s £1.5 billion Road to Zero strategy and takes inspiration from a scheme in Ontario, Canada where drivers of electric cars were given free access to toll lanes and high occupancy vehicle lanes, leading to an increase in EV registrations. It’s hoped UK local authorities would implement similar policies with the aid of the green plate scheme.

Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport, said: “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.”

Incentives to choose zero emissions cars

Nicholas Lyes, head of roads policy at the RAC, cast doubt on the scheme though, saying: “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.

“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.

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“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.”

Edmund King, president of the AA, added: “Around two-fifths of drivers say that all new ultra-low emission vehicles should be fitted with a green plate when it rolls off the forecourt. While some will see it as a ‘plate of honour’, drivers should be given the option of adding them onto their vehicle. Other incentives, such as cheaper parking, will help, but reinstating the grant for hybrids would also encourage those not ready to go for the full EV.”

Are green numberplates for ‘green’ cars a good idea? Let us know in the comments…

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