After a government consultation, the idea of green number plates for zero emissions vehicles is now becoming a reality. From autumn this year, all new electric vehicles will come with a number plate featuring a 'green flash' on the left hand edge and already-registered EVs will be eligible for one.
The consultation for the idea began last October and far from being a gimmick, it will serve a number of useful purposes. They will make identification of zero emissions vehicles much easier which will enable local authorities to implement new policies and incentives for people to drive them. This could extend to cheaper or free parking, entry into low or zero-emissions zones and also not receiving a ticket for parking in a charging bay!
Transport secretary, Grant Shapps, said: “A green recovery is key to helping us achieve our net zero carbon commitments while also promoting economic growth. Green number plates could unlock a number of incentives for drivers and increase awareness of cleaner vehicles on our roads, showing people that a greener transport future is within our grasp.”
Behind the scheme is the continuing push towards Net Zero 2050 and gently moving people towards EVs as the way forward for personal transport. It may seem small fry compared to a scheme like the proposed scrappage initiative, but continued favour in the direction of EVs helps people build a stronger case for choosing one during their purchasing decision making.
Unfortunately plug-in hybrids – a middle-ground between zero emissions and everyday practicality for many consumers – are not covered by the green number plate initiative. During the consultation, which included industry bodies and manufacturers, several options which could have covered most PHEVs, were considered. However, the final result means only EVs and hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicles are covered.
It's not just number plates with a green flash that the government has announced; alongside it is a £12 million fund to support “ground-breaking research into the zero-emission market” to help develop greener vehicles and improve charging technology.
The cash is being made available through the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) and is being handled by Innovate UK – the body which has overseen numerous grants and successful funding initiatives such as the forthcoming electric forecourt in Essex and Octopus Energy's Powerloop project. Some £10 million of it will be dished out through a new Zero Emission Vehicle Innovation Competition through which applicants will bid for project funding.
The final £2 million is being used to support UK SMEs in their research into zero emissions vehicles in areas such as battery technology with the desired outcome being that technology being used by major vehicle manufacturers. Given that a lot of innovation in the EV world is driven by SMEs, it makes sense to invest in them.
Grant Shapps said: “We're supporting small businesses to develop the transport tech of the future through a multi-million pound investment, ensuring that UK businesses remain at the forefront of low carbon innovation and research.”
That £12 million funding is being sent to the right place by supporting the SMEs which are really driving innovation. Previous funding cycles by OLEV have been very successful and we expect the next round to continue the trend. As for green number plates, whilst it's a good idea in principle, we do think that leaving out PHEVs is a missed opportunity. As zero emissions-capable cars, they are useful in the fight for clean air and lower emissions. On a purely practical level, they need to use charging points and it's not beyond imagination that unwary parking attendants could start handing out wrongful fines. Another potential problem is misuse of the green flash; expect to see such plates on middle-aged diesel saloons exploiting EV privileges in due course.