The UK government has begun an official consultation on introducing green numbers plates to electric and zero emissions cars. The idea is to increase awareness and also make it easier to introduce electric car benefits such as discounted parking or driving in bus lanes.
Road to Zero
The consultation is part of the Governments £1.5 billion Road to Zero strategy to cut road pollution. The government hopes the scheme will boost electric car sales, helping it achieve its 2050 target of net zero emissions.
It takes inspiration from a scheme in Canada which involved electric cars being given free access to high occupancy vehicle lanes. This quickly lead to an increase in Electronic Vehicle registrations and the plan is for UK local authorities would implement similar policies with the aid of the green plate scheme.
Potential green number plate designs
The Department for Transport has revealed three very different potential designs for a green number plate. The first is a striking all-green plate, the second is a more modest standard white or yellow number plate with a green column on the left-hand side, and the third is the same standard plate with a green circle instead of a column.
Electric Car Incentives
Through the introduction of green number plates, local authorities would have a useful visual identifier should they wish to introduce incentives to promote the use of zero-emission vehicles. Proposals include allowing these drivers to use bus lanes and being having designated parking spaces in addition to charged less for parking.
However, there is opposition to the plans. Bus infrastructure is already severely strained and in need of significant investment, if more cars use the lanes it could increase congestion for bus passengers and drive people off the bus and back into cars. The majority of which are unlikely to be electric!
With parking spaces at a premium almost everywhere, priority parking could also prove controversial. Regular car users who can’t afford an electric car are likely to feel discriminated against. Moreover it could be argued that if you can afford an expensive electric car then you are unlikely to really need your parking subsidised.
In the UK, consumers currently get £3,500 towards the cost of a new electric car and if the vehicle is valued at under £40,000 it is exempt from annual vehicle tax.
Electric Car challenges
New all-electric vehicles sales have been on the rise year on year. However they still represent only a fraction of total car sales. To put this in perspective, only about 1% of new cars sold this year are electric, whilst the market for used electric vehicles hardly exists yet. One of the UK’s best-selling cars is the all-electric Tesla Model 3, however its value remains out of reach for many potential customers. The fact remains that battery technology is expensive and are designed to hold massive amounts of charge. Because electric cars cost a lot to build, they also cost more than comparable petrol cars to buy.
People being priced out of buying an electric car is just one of the current challenges. The lack of charging points on roads is an issue with the Government readily admitting the UK’s charging infrastructure still needs major improvement. Moreover, the electric car batteries have been under the microscope, with critics quick to question their ‘clean’ image. Manufacturing concerns as well as power sources and overall autonomy have been criticised.
Ultimately, not everyone is convinced that electric cars will suit their lifestyle. People are worried about how far they can travel in electric cars before their batteries run out. Most production electric cars about to hit the market can only reach about 100 miles on a single charge. It is then a case of finding a charge station and waiting whilst the car charges up. Even with a ‘rapid-charger’ a top-up would take at least half an hour and the majority of people simply have not got this time available.
The Government has an objective to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in 2040. This is over 20 years away and a target criticised by MPs who want the change made by 2030. However, even if these goals are met realistically it is likely to be decades before electric cars take over our roads.