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Consultations into the move first began last October, with the Department for Transport (DfT) claiming that different plates would make EVs easily recognisable to local authorities and businesses wishing to incentivise low-carbon transport through discounted parking schemes and low-emission zones.
The DfT also believes that, by businesses and members of the general public being able to easily tell how many EVs are on the streets, they will recognise that a “greener transport future is within our grasp”.
The plates will be rolled out starting in autumn and will be recognisable by a green flash on the left-hand side. Only vehicles classed as “zero-emission” will be covered and new cars will receive the plates before a retrofit scheme is developed.
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). Full details of the plan are expected by the end of the month.
It is worth noting than 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 said: “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.”
Further funding and past planning
To complement the announcement on licence plates, the DfT has unveiled a further £12m of funding for projects working to decarbonise the road transport sector, to be made available through the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV).
£10m will be spent on a new innovation competition for zero-emission vehicles, which will allocate funding to organisations in the EV, charging infrastructure and hydrogen vehicle sector. The deadline for this competition is 29 July.
The remaining £2m will be directly provided to UK SMEs that are researching zero-emission vehicles.
This funding builds on a string of initiatives announced at March’s Budget. Chancellor Rishi Sunak has pledged £500m for fast-charging networks for EVs, allocated £403m to extend the Plug-in Grant for cars through to 2023 and set aside £129.5m for grants for taxis, vans and motorcycles.
Further funding is expected once the DfT it finishes developing roadmaps for decarbonising “every single mode of transport” in line with the UK’s 2050 net-zero target.
However, Conservative Ministers have received much criticism in recent times for their handling of the decarbonisation of the transport sector, which overtook energy as the most-emitting in the UK in 2016. The Road To Zero strategy, published in 2018, was rubbished by the official climate change watchdog and by key figures across the green economy. The Government has since pledged to bring the 2040 ban on new petrol and diesel car sales forward to 2035 but will only officially change the law at the now-delayed COP26 summit.