UK to roll out green license plates for zero-emission vehicles in attempt to incentivize uptake

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Green license plates identifying electric vehicles are to be rolled out in the U.K. this autumn, as lawmakers continue their efforts to encourage drivers away from gasoline- and diesel-fueled methods of transport.

In an announcement Tuesday, the U.K. government said the new number plates would have a “green flash” on their left hand side. Only zero-emission vehicles will be allowed to use them.

The overarching idea is to make these types of vehicle easier to spot when on the road. The government said that this would in turn help “local authorities design and put in place new policies to incentivise people to own and drive them.” This could take the form of cheaper parking and free entry into zero-emission areas, the government said. 

“A green recovery is key to helping us achieve our net zero carbon commitments while also promoting economic growth,” Grant Shapps, U.K. transport secretary, said in a statement.

“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.” 

Tuesday also saw the government announce £12 million ($15.18 million) in funding for research relating to green vehicles and charging technology.

It comes as growing concerns about air pollution and the environment are leading more road users to turn to low-emission vehicles. And while the coronavirus pandemic is set to impact the uptake of all types of cars this year, figures from 2019 do perhaps give an indication of where things may be heading long term.

Battery electric vehicle registrations in the U.K. grew to 37,850 last year, according to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). This represents an increase of 144% compared to 2018, when 15,510 were registered.

While this growth is encouraging for advocates of low- and zero-emission vehicles, a huge amount of work needs to be done to engender real change.

The market share for battery electric vehicles in 2019 was just 1.6%, according to the SMMT, while hybrid electric vehicles had a 4.2% share. At the other end of the spectrum, petrol had a market share of 64.8%, while diesel’s share was 25.2%.

In February, the U.K. government said it wanted to end the sale of new diesel and petrol cars and vans by the year 2035 or earlier.

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