• Video report by ITV News Consumer Editor Chris Choi

Drivers of zero-emission cars could be given green number plates to help them benefit from incentives for cleaner vehicles - including cheaper parking and access to bus lanes.

The Department for Transport [DfT] has launched a consultation on plans to give special licence plates to cars which conform to the highest environmental standards.

This will make them easily identifiable to local authorities who want to promote the use of zero- emission vehicles through incentive schemes.

The measure is part of the Government’s £1.5 billion strategy to clean up road transport.

Several potential plate designs are being considered. Credit: Department for Transport/PA

Special number plates have been trialled in Ontario, Canada, with drivers of electric vehicles given free access to toll lanes and high occupancy vehicle lanes.

The city subsequently saw an increase in electric vehicle registrations.

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.

“By increasing awareness of these vehicles and the benefits they bring to their drivers and our environment, we will turbo-charge the zero-emission revolution.”

Critics argue that the higher costs of electric cars put people off from buying them.

Mr Shapps said that while the vehicles may be more expensive, costs such as running the cars are much less, meaning they may work out most cost-efficient in the long run.

The DfT hopes more people will consider buying cleaner cars when they see the plates.

Potential number plate designs:

  • A fully green number plate with black lettering

  • The addition of a green flash on the plate

  • The addition of a green dot or symbol

Elisabeth Costa, senior director at the Behavioural Insights Team, which is part-owned by the Cabinet Office, employees and innovation charity Nesta, 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.”

Drivers of electric cars would benefit from incentives. Credit: PA

RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes warned that while some drivers could see the plates as a badge of honour, they could foster resentment among owners of conventionally fuelled vehicles.

He said: “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.”

Mr Shapps recently announced that he has doubled funding for electric vehicle charging points on residential streets.

The Government is also consulting on requiring charge points to be built into all new homes with a parking space.

Data published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders shows 25,097 purely electric new cars were registered during the first nine months of the year, more than double the figure during the same period in 2018.

These cars now hold a 1.3% share of the new car market.