Drivers of zero-emission cars are to be given distinctive green number plates which could make them eligible to by-pass congestion zone charges or secure cheaper parking.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the decision to print a green “flash” on the left-hand side of number plates on zero-emission cars from the autumn would help “show people that a greener transport future is within our grasp”.

The move, which could allow motorists to tap into special incentives, is designed to make switching to electric vehicles more appealing, as the Government looks to meet its target of achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

Mr Shapps said: “A green recovery is key to helping us achieve our net zero carbon commitments while also promoting economic growth.

“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.

“We’re supporting small businesses to develop the transport tech of the future through a multimillion pound investment, ensuring that UK businesses remain at the forefront of low-carbon innovation and research.’’

The Department for Transport (DfT) said the green strip on the plates would make electric vehicles more easily identifiable to local authorities who want to offer schemes such as allowing drivers of such vehicles to use bus lanes, charging them less for parking or cost-free entry into zero-emission zones.

Green cars
The green plates could help electric vehicles by-pass low or zero emission zone charges (Yui Mok/PA)

The announcement follows a consultation, started in October, with councils, industry and the public.

Special number plates have been trialled in Ontario, Canada, with drivers of electric vehicles given free access to toll lanes and high-occupancy vehicle lanes.

The city subsequently saw an increase in electric vehicle registrations.

Mr Shapps’ announcement follows reports last week claiming the Prime Minister was said to be considering plans to give drivers up to £6,000 to exchange their petrol or diesel car for an electric model.

The Daily Telegraph reported that, despite the Government reducing the maximum grant available for electric car buyers under the Plug-In Car Grant, by £500 to £3,000, in March, Boris Johnson was being urged to help manufacturers hit hard by the coronavirus crisis, with sales of new cars down nearly 90% in May compared with the same month in 2019.

Edmund King, president of AA, said he welcomed the switch to partially green numbers plates and said that 37% of his organisation’s members had voiced support for the change.

“Having a green flash on the number plate may become a badge of honour for some drivers,” said Mr King.

Car charging
The Government is looking to encourage motorists to switch to low-emission cars (Peter Byrne/PA)

“We support this concept, which shows that the electric vehicle revolution is now moving from amber to green.”

But the RAC said it was not convinced the new plates would provide much incentive for motorists to opt for greener cars.

Rod Dennis, a spokesman for the organisation, 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.”

On top of giving green number plates the go-ahead, the DfT also announced that £12 million was being made available for further zero-emission vehicle research.

The funding, made through the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (Olev) and delivered through Innovate UK, will see £10 million for a new zero-emission vehicle innovation competition.

The scheme will invite applicants to bid for project funding to support advancements in both battery electric and hydrogen vehicles, as well as charging infrastructure.

A further £2 million will be provided by Olev to UK small and medium businesses to support their research into zero-emission vehicles in areas such as battery technology, which could be used by major vehicle manufacturers in future electric vehicle production, said DfT.

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