Part of the challenge in integrating electric vehicles into daily life is getting people to accept them as a normal form of transport: To address this, the UK government considering using green plates to boost awareness and encourage further uptake of electric vehicles.
Green plates are already prominent on electric and hydrogen cars in Canada, Norway and China, and insights from a company called Behavioural Insights Team, an initiative jointly owned by the UK government and innovation organisation Nesta, suggest that it might be a good idea.
As BIT director Elisabeth Costa, told The Guardian, the addition of green plates to low and no emissions cars is a simple change that could have a big impact.
“Green plates would be more noticeable to road users, and this increased attraction can help normalise the idea of clean vehicles, highlighting the changing social norms around vehicle ownership,” she says.
Displaying green plates on EVs and their ilk could have other purposes too, as Beyhad Jafari, CEO of Australia’s Electric Vehicle Council, explains – but in Australia, we are still a way off being ready to consider even a simple change such as this.
“It’s unfortunate we’ve got yet another piece of wonderful technology of progress (and it) has fallen victim to really what is the politics of wilful ignorance,” Jafari says.
“There is no logical argument for not supporting the transition to electric vehicles, particularly for a country like ours that doesn’t have oil, there’s no industry there to protect.
“It’s just driving a wedge between people who do care for the environment and want to mislead people into thinking it’s better to keep things the same.”
In the UK, 5.5% of new vehicle sales are hybrid and electric, but Australia has so far failed to latch on to the shift towards electric vehicles, with only around 0.1% of cars on our roads being plug-in hybrid or electric, according to the IEA’s Global EV Outlook 2018 report.
The consensus is that in Australia, this is due to a lack of policy and financial incentives.
In stark contrast, the UK has embraced policy for EVs and other low emissions vehicles, even creating their own Office for Low Emission Vehicles.
Because of this early adoption of policies by the UK government, they can now look to next steps, Jafari explains.
“Once you introduce those policies to celebrate the uptake of electric vehicles and accelerate the transition towards them, you’re able to then deploy policies targeted towards coordinating the uptake of EV, which is what we’re seeing in the UK,” he says.
“Now they’re saying, ‘How can we provide things like EV licence plating or to ensure they’re being integrated well onto our roads, or people can differentiate electric vehicles from non-electric ones’,” he says.
While most people can spot a Tesla these days, telling the difference between Hyundai’s Kona ICE and Kona Electric, for example, is not as easy.
Being able to do this at a glance could have a range of benefits, Jafari says, such as ensuring a car parked in a space reserved for electric vehicles is in fact an EV, or informing first responders at a car crash.
This is because emergency protocols for battery electric vehicles may be different to cars with fuel tanks – both of which, Jafari is quick to express, have their own particular risks.
“It’s a luxury for the UK now that they’re at the point where they’re able to think about these things, because they’ve already done that early work of moving their economy onto a new technology in the first place,” he concludes.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.