The UK’s plan to put green plates on electric cars is dumb hypocrisy

The government is planning to give zero-emission vehicles green number plates. But they do little to help boost the number of electric car sales.

The government has announced a new scheme to encourage people to take up driving electric cars. The incentive? A lurid green number plate.

The Department of Transport says the new plates will give local authorities, “a useful visual identifier should they wish to introduce incentives to promote the use of zero-emission vehicles, such as allowing these drivers to use bus lanes and to pay less for parking.” A similar scheme was introduced in the Canadian province of Ontario back in 2010 which allowed electric car drivers to use toll lanes for free.

But while the number plates may look striking, they do little to help the government’s stated aim of boosting electric car sales.

David Bailey, professor of business economics at the University of Birmingham, says the proposals are “pathetic” and a “greenwash”. He adds that, other than a weak nudge to encourage people to switch over to EVs, he’s unable to see any logic behind the move.

Much like the government’s clean air strategy, the proposal itself relies too heavily on devolution of responsibility to local authorities, and doesn’t specify what benefits should be issued. “Saying, ‘Oh we’ll have green number plates’ is not going to solve anything,” Bailey says. “There’s no actual incentive specified to encourage the uptake of electric vehicles.”

Without these clear incentives, the purpose of the number plate itself is also unclear, says Sam Akehurst, professor of advanced powertrain systems at Bath University. “If someone wants to have some indication on their car that they’re driving an electric vehicle or low emissions vehicle then they can put a big sticker on it.” He also adds that even some of the suggested benefits, like being able to drive in bus lanes, seem incoherent. “Bus lanes have buses,” he says. “Why not get on a bus?”

The announcement is particularly jarring in the context of repeated cuts to electric vehicle subsidies in the UK. The British car industry has linked falling sales to the government’s decision last year to cut subsidies for pure electric cars from £4,500 to £3,500, and to completely eliminate the £2,500 grant for hybrid vehicles. (In an interview with The Times, transport secretary Grant Shapps stated that he intends to eventually remove subsidies entirely). Only one in every 17 cars sold in the UK in June of this year was electric – this stat needs to significantly increase if the UK wants to meet its 2050 target of net zero carbon dioxide emissions.

EDIT: I would not want  GREEN LICENSE PLATE, I am not Irish and I don’t live in Ireland, but maybe. the Irish may like it!