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The U.K. government launched a consultation which could result in zero-emission vehicles using green-colored license plates.

In an announcement Tuesday, authorities said the introduction of green plates aimed to “raise awareness of the increasing number of zero tailpipe emission vehicles on U.K. roads” and help drivers of these cars benefit from incentives like cheaper or free parking.

The government added that, with the new plates, local authorities would have a “visual identifier” if they wanted to introduce schemes such as letting drivers use bus lanes.

The plates could be designed in a range of ways, including a green number plate that uses black lettering; a green symbol or dot used on a conventional yellow license plate; or the use of a “green flash.”

Grant Shapps, the U.K.’s transport secretary, described green license plates as “a really positive and exciting way to help everyone recognise the increasing number of electric vehicles on our roads.”

Although Shapps was positive, others were more cautious. “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,” Nicholas Lyes, head of roads policy at motoring organization the RAC, said in a statement.

According to data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, September 2019 saw 7,704 battery electric vehicle registrations in the U.K., up from 2,290 in September 2018. There were 5,179 plug-in hybrid electric vehicle registrations, while 16,932 hybrid electric vehicles were registered. By contrast, 224,828 petrol cars and 77,510 diesel ones were registered in the same month.

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The introduction of green-colored plates is not a new idea. In Ontario, Canada, for example, drivers of battery electric, hydrogen fuel cell and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles have the option of using plates with green text. On certain stretches of road these plates enable drivers to use high occupancy vehicle lanes and high occupancy toll lanes — the latter for free — even if one person is in the car.

Back in the U.K., Friends of the Earth campaigner Jenny Bates acknowledged that while green license plates may encourage some to choose cleaner cars, if ministers wanted to boost the take-up of electric vehicles they “should introduce more charging points and better financial incentives.”

“A national scrappage scheme is urgently needed too, to help fund a switch to a cleaner vehicle or greener transport alternative — such as car club membership, a rail season ticket or even an e-bike loan,” she added.



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