Green number plates explained

September 23, 2022 by

Wondered what the green stripe you see on the side of some cars’ number plates is for? Wonder no more

In June 2020 the Transport Secretary announced that electric cars would be able to wear number plates featuring a vertical green stripe (officially known as a ‘flash’) on the left-hand side of the plates.

If you’re curious what the thinking is behind the green number plates, we’ll go through this here, as well as precisely which types of car are eligible for them, and what the mechanics of procuring a set of green plates involve.

What does the green strip on a number plate mean?’

In short, if you see green number plates, it means the car wearing them is an EV. The plates can only be fitted to cars that produce zero tailpipe emissions, so only pure electric cars can benefit from them.

These plates still feature the traditional yellow (at the rear) and white (at the front) colours, but have a green box to the left of the characters. The plates themselves are also often made sustainable materials.

Hydrogen cars can also have green plates but there are only two such cars on the market in the UK (The Hyundai Nexo and Toyota Mirai), both of which remain niche propositions sold in tiny numbers.

Cars, vans, buses, HGVs, taxis and motorcycles can all wear green plates if they produce zero emissions (IE are EVs).

Although hybrids and plug-in hybrids use electric motors, they are not zero-emission cars (their engines produce exhaust gases) and so they are therefore not eligible for the plates.

UK number plates explained

Why did the government introduce green number plates?’

When green number plates were announced, the-then Transport Minister Rachel Maclean said they would “raise awareness” of electric cars. This awareness raising would potentially encourage people to buy an electric car ahead of the planned ban on the sales of new petrol and diesel cars in 2035.

The Department for Transport also said green plates could “unlock a number of incentives for drivers”. Precisely what these would comprise was not stated, though it was hoped, for example, that councils might offer reduced parking rates of EVs with green plates.

These incentives have not to materialised for a number of reasons, including how people fitting green plates to petrol and diesel cars could be prevented from fraudulently obtaining any benefits that might be offered, and the fact that if any incentives were wanted to be offered for EV drivers these could already by facilitated due to the fact that what fuel a car is powered by is already recorded, with this information being obtainable to organistions via the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency already.

Help me pick my next car

How to get a green number plate

If you buy a new electric car it will be fitted as standard with green number plates. You won’t need to complete any additional paperwork compared to the process for buying a petrol or diesel car.

If you already have an electric car and want to fit the new green number plates, you can purchase them from an approved supplier.  You can use this government website to help. Most motor factors and big stores like Halfords can make them for you.

They cost about £40 for a pair and to get them you’ll need to provide ID and show your V5C logbook to prove the car is electric.

It is possible to use a supplier of ‘show plates’ and obtain green number plates with no checks of the V5C, but it is illegal to use these on the road if your car is not zero emission, and you risk a £1,000 fine.

Which other countries use green number plates?

A number of other nations use number plates to offer incentives for drivers of electric cars. Canadian EV drivers can get green plates, while the registration marks of Norwegian electric cars begin with an ‘E’ prefix, while Chinese EVs also get a special number plate.

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