Depending on what part of the country you live, commute or travel to, you may be aware that purchasing a Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) comes with a few perks; cheap or reduced rate parking, perhaps the option to use bus lanes, maybe congestion-zone or ULEZ charge free amongst others.

Some of these benefits are common sense – ULEZ for example is a tax designed specifically for vehicles that pollute, or that don’t pollute, depending on your viewpoint. But parking a BEV takes as much space as a ‘dirty’ car, and as for running in bus lanes … isn’t that akin to a class system for motoring?

The wealthy get to whizz through the traffic using lanes that are prohibited, while the paupers that insist on hanging on to their older internal combustion have to wait in line because clearly their business or commute isn’t as important.

£1.5 billion scheme

The Government are now looking at how to make that difference more noticeable, and their solution is to add green coloured number plates into the mix.

The scheme is part of a £1.5 billion drive to raise awareness of electric vehicles, and we’re told that along with the green number plates, it will offer numerous other benefits including free or reduced parking, and perhaps the right to travel in bus lanes.

Except … don’t a number of cities already offer that for electric vehicles? Just without the green plates.

It’s admirable that Grant Shapps wants to incentivise buyers of Battery Electric Vehicles, but reducing the grant to help with the purchase of a new EV is just the opposite, as is changing the criteria for getting help to fit a charging system at home.

So what the Transport Secretary is really saying, is “We want to incentivise you to buy green, but in such a way that the incentives are meaningless, and don’t cost us anything; we’re giving you a gimmick.”

Positives and negatives of electric power

To be clear, I’m not anti-electric vehicles, or pro-fossil fuels. I genuinely think we’re witnessing tremendous breakthroughs, the likes of which haven’t really been seen since Karl Benz first strapped an engine to vehicle, but I’m anti gimmicks, especially those that cost us, as motorists, even more in tax.

£1.5 billion to promote “Green number plates are a really positive and exciting way to help everyone recognise the increasing number of electric vehicles on our roads” (Grant Shapps) or “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 our roads.” (Elisabeth Costa, senior director at the Behavioural Insights Team).

This is quite literally the UK government beating their chest, ticking some boxes and shouting that they’re doing all they can to promote green travel, whereas the reality is nothing more than a number plate design change.

Campaigners against

While making glib comments about a motoring class system is all well and good, truthfully, there are real concerns from road campaigners that it could ‘foster resentment’ from owners of traditional ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) powered cars, particularly those than aren’t in the position to afford a switch to electric.

Nicholas Lyes, head of roads policy at the RAC had this to say: “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.”

The future

Without any doubt, electric vehicles are the future of transportation, and the technology involved gets more cost-efficient with each new model rolled off the production line, but more needs to be done to help those that aren’t financially able to swap.

It’s all very well offering a meagre scrappage scheme to help buyers, but targeting the most needy with two or three thousand pounds is absolutely pointless, it’s just another gimmick that can be trotted out to satisfy the box-tickers – “Yes, we’re doing everything within our power to help people convert to green”. (“The fact that they aren’t converting to green is no concern of ours … we offered them money and everything”).

Are green number plates a gimmick? Should the govt. save the money and actually offer some useful help? Or are they doing the right thing? Let us know in the comments.

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