Driving Change: How Green Number Plates Inspire Eco-Friendly Driving

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Since their introduction in 2020, as part of the UK’s Road to 2030, green number plates act as a quick and easy identifier of zero-emission vehicles and have gained significant attention as a symbol of sustainable driving.

We are going to delve into everything you need to know about these plates and their role in promoting environmentally friendly transportation.

What exactly are green number plates?

Green number plates are special license plates designed to identify low-emission vehicles on the road. The plates will be identifiable by a green line on the left-hand side, as shown in this image below.

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Their introduction aims to encourage the purchase of electric vehicles, as well as raise awareness about eco-friendly driving practices. By displaying a green number plate, the idea is that drivers showcase their commitment to reducing emissions and supporting a greener future through the purchase of that particular vehicle. The green number plates are all part of the UK Government’s ‘Road to Zero Emissions’ initiative which aims to transition the country to zero-emissions cars by 2030.

What makes you a qualifier for the infamous green number plate?

Well, the vehicle must be a solely electric model, with zero CO2 tailpipe emissions. You cannot purchase a green number plate if you have a hybrid or plug-in hybrid vehicle.

You might be questioning aside from being easily identified as a zero-emissions vehicle, what are the benefits of owning this number plate? Well, one of the key benefits of green number plates is their ability to provide different incentives and privileges to electric and low-emission vehicle owners. These incentives can vary by region and are typically implemented by local authorities or governments. Some common perks that have already or we could see implemented in the future include:

  • Access to Low-Emission Zones: There are already a number of low emission zones in the UK – including London, Birmingham, Leeds, and more, with additional areas to be added in the future. These zones require you to pay a fee to drive into them, if your vehicle exceeds the emission standards. Vehicles with green number plates may be granted access or discounted fees, allowing drivers to navigate these zones with ease.
  • Priority Parking: Green plate holders might enjoy dedicated parking spots closer to their destination, making charging stations more accessible and convenient.
  • Cost Savings: Governments and local authorities often provide financial incentives to promote the purchase of electric vehicles. These incentives may include tax rebates, grants, or reduced road tax rates, making green number plate vehicles more affordable to own and operate.
  • Carpool Lane Access: Green plate vehicles may be permitted to use carpool or high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, even with just one occupant. This can significantly reduce commute times and provide a smoother driving experience.

Managing director of Nissan Motor GB, Andrew Humberstone, said: ‘The perception is that electric cars are expensive. We’re trying to show that’s not the case. People need to factor in the total cost of ownership, the financial benefits, and the perks, like these green number plates.’ By encouraging the use of green number plates, governments and local authorities aim to accelerate the transition to sustainable transportation, reduce carbon emissions, and combat climate change. The idea is these plates serve as a visual reminder of our collective responsibility to protect the environment and embrace cleaner mobility options. However, it’s worth noting that you don’t have to have a green number plate to potentially benefit from cost savings, with many systems using automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) to identify an electric vehicle.

The UK is not the only country to introduce the green number plates, with Canada, China, Hungary and Norway having all introduced similar schemes. Despite it being around 3 years since we first introduced green number plates in the UK, these schemes are still in their early days, so we’ll find out in time whether UK green number plates unlock benefits when driving abroad.

So, what do people think about green number plates?

A third of motorists in the UK would be more likely to buy an EV because of green number plates, according to research from a YouGov poll commissioned by Nissan.

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55% of people were unaware that low emission zones were under consideration in towns and cities across the nation. While 81% of respondents were aware of the environmental benefits of electric motoring, 53% were unaware of the possible financial gains such as congestion charge exemption. The survey showed enthusiasm for electric motoring is strong in London, with 50% of residents questioned saying they would be likely to buy an electric car if it made it easier to access the centre of the capital.

While electric vehicles (EVs) offer numerous advantages and are considered a promising solution for sustainable transportation, it’s important to acknowledge that there are also some challenges and drawbacks associated with their adoption.Starting with the some obvious drawbacks, electric vehicles have limited driving range and need at least 20-40 minutes to re-charge, sometimes more, versus the quick 5-10 minutes to refill a petrol or diesel vehicle. Despite public charging points being dotted all over, they vary in type, costs and also vary depending on the power rating and whether it’s slow (lamppost charging), fast (Car parks) or Rapid (Motorway service stations). Pod Point rapid chargers cost 40p/kWh at Lidl, which is about £9.30-£10.70 for 30 minutes of charging (about 90 miles of range). Consequently, long-distance travel may require careful planning and access to charging infrastructure, which can be a constraint in certain areas. It is important to note here that the UK government has announced that it will be “providing £500 million over the next five years to support the rollout of a fast-charging network for electric vehicles, ensuring that drivers will never be further than 30 miles from a rapid charging station.”.

Additional drawbacks include costs. Although the price of an EV has reduced in recent years they still are more expensive than petrol powered vehicles with minimal available second hand. As discussed prior it might be cheaper in the long run to run a EV with benefits such as the government and local authorities financial incentives free or reduced cost to enter low emission zones (which are increasing) and reduced road tax rates, the steep upfront costs obviously makes it difficult for people to make the switch to an EV.

Another drawback, and probably the most important, is the effect the manufacturing of the EVs has on the environment. Yes, you did read that correctly, according to the Young People’s Trust for the Environment, making a petrol or diesel car, taking into account the whole production process, releases about 7 to 10 tonnes of CO2. Making an electric car releases roughly the same amount. Additionally you have to then add the production of the battery which is estimated to be 150 kg of CO2 released for every 1 kiloWatt hour (kWh) of battery capacity. For an electric car to have a decent range (around 300 miles) between charges, it needs a battery that’s at least 60 kWh in capacity meaning a further 9 tonnes of CO2 will be emitted during the making of an electric car. This gives a total of 16-19 tonnes of CO2 being emitted for the manufacturing of an electric car. The production of electric vehicles requires significant amounts of raw materials, such as lithium, cobalt, and nickel, for battery production. The extraction and processing of these materials can have environmental and social impacts, including habitat disruption and labor concerns in mining regions.

It is undeniable that once on the roads the EV is more sustainable and better for our planet than any petrol and diesel car. The question is do those long term benefits outweigh the negative effects of the manufacture of the EVs. Furthermore we have to ask is the cost we might save through the financial incentives going to benefit significantly in the long term as an EV owner. It’s important to note that many of these challenges are being actively addressed and mitigated as the technology and infrastructure surrounding electric vehicles continue to evolve. As advancements are made, the negatives associated with EVs are gradually being overcome, making them an increasingly viable and attractive option for sustainable transportation.