LONDON - Drivers of electric cars in the UK could be given green number plates that allow them to use bus lanes and park for free.

The scheme is part of a £1.5 billion (R28.7bn) drive to boost sales of electric vehicles.

Town halls will be encouraged to grant incentives to cars with the green plates, such as free or cheaper parking. Three designs are being considered, the most radical of which is an all-green plate.

If approved, it will be the first major change in UK plate design since 1969, when silver-on-black plates were replaced with today’s yellow and white reflective versions.

The other two proposed designs feature a green stripe and green dot on the traditional plate.

Ministers have launched a 12-week consultation on the plans with a view to introducing green plates within 12 to 18 months.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: "The UK is in the driving seat of global efforts to tackle vehicle emissions and climate change and improve air quality, but we want to accelerate our progress.

"Green number plates are a really positive and exciting way to help everyone recognise the increasing number of electric vehicles on our roads."

The plan is modelled on a trial in Ontario, Canada, where drivers of electric vehicles were given free access to toll roads and high-occupancy vehicle lanes, resulting in a spike in electric vehicle registrations.

Elisabeth Costa, senior director at the Behavioural Insights Team, which is part-owned by the Cabinet Office, said: "The number of clean vehicles on our roads is increasing but we don’t notice as it’s difficult to tell clean vehicles apart from more polluting ones.

"Green number plates make these vehicles, and our decision to drive in a more environmentally friendly way, more visible on roads. We think making the changing social norm noticeable will help encourage more of us to swap our cars for cleaner options."

But road campaigners warned the move could ‘foster resentment’ among owners of petrol and diesel cars, particularly those who are unable to afford the high up-front cost of switching to electric.

Nicholas Lyes, head of roads policy at the RAC, said: "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.

"On the face of it, drivers we’ve questioned don’t seem too impressed - only a fifth think it’s a good idea and the majority said the number plates wouldn’t have the effect of making them any more likely to switch to an electric vehicle."

Daily Mail