Green plates for green cars: The UK pushes zero-emission transport

The UK Government will move forward with plans to fit electric vehicles (EVs) with special green number plates this autumn, following successful trials.
June 22, 2020 | 06:18
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The government wants the UK to lead the way in low emissions on the road. Photo: drivingtalent

The UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the plates will be introduced from autumn this year as part of a £1.5billion drive to stimulate the economy by accelerating zero-emission motoring since the country aims of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

The plates will feature a green band on the side that can be recognised by automatic number plate recognition cameras which monitor bus lanes. Only vehicles classed as “zero-emission” will be covered and new cars will receive the plates before a retrofit scheme is developed.

According to the Department of Transportation (DfT), the plates will allow local authorities to “design and put in place new policies to incentivize people to own and drive” electric cars. Three incentives, among many others, might be considered including cheaper parking, permission to use bus lanes, and exemptions from emissions charges.

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Drivers of electric cars are to be given green number plates that could allow them to use bus lanes and park for free. Photo: DfT

“Green number plates could increase awareness of cleaner vehicles on our roads”, said Mr. Shapps. “A green recovery is key to helping us achieve our net zero carbon commitments while also promoting economic growth”.

The initiatives may help the Government reach its aim of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, but could be met with hostility from drivers of traditional combustion engine vehicles.

According to Sky News, the move to green flash number plates follows a DfT's consultation on the scheme in October last year as part of the government's £1.5bn strategy to cut road pollution.

It has not yet been confirmed whether the Government or motorists will pay for the plates, nor how much Government funding is being allocated to the scheme. However, the move will fall under the Government’s broader Covid-19 recovery plan, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed on Tuesday (16 June).

Commenting on green plates, Edmund King, President of British motoring association AA Plc, said: “Having a green flash on the number plate may become a badge of honor for some drivers. We support this concept which shows that the EV revolution is now moving from amber to green.”

In June 2019 the Prime Minister Theresa May pledged that the UK would produce net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. A key part of that promise will be to drastically reduce or eliminate vehicle exhaust fumes.

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Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the plates will be introduced from autumn as part of a £1.5billion drive to stimulate the economy by accelerating zero-emission motoring. Photo: Daily Mail

However, the Edie network reported that several local authorities are delaying plans for clean air zones and EV initiatives as a result of the pandemic, as a result of having to divert resources to crisis planning and as journey numbers fall.

Responding to the announcement, the RAC spokesperson Rod Dennis said it was not convinced the new plates would provide much incentive for motorists to opt for greener cars: “While this is well-intentioned, we don't believe green number plates on their own will do much to make people switch to an electric car". "We'd much prefer the Government looked at things like bringing in the right financial incentives”, he emphasized.

Hugo Griffiths from Auto Express cited the Government’s independent Surveillance Camera Commissioner previously warned that green number plates could lead to “an unqualified extension to the role of ANPR”, a network that makes at least 10 billion number plate scans a year, and issues around £100 million in fines annually.

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The UK Government has committed to the country reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Photo: energysavingtrust

The UK Government confirmed ambition to see at least half of new cars to be ultra-low emission by 2030 as Road to Zero Strategy released:

  • The strategy sets out ambition for at least 50% — and as many as 70% — of new car sales to be ultra low emission by 2030, alongside up to 40% of new vans
  • The government will take steps to enable massive roll-out of infrastructure to support electric vehicle revolution
  • The strategy sets the stage for the biggest technology advancement to hit UK roads since the invention of the combustion engine


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The strategy aims to speed up the delivery of zero and low emission vehicles in the UK. Photo: airqualitynews
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