UK getting green number plates, e-bike funds in green transport push

UK getting green number plates, e-bike funds in green transport push

Chris Middleton reports on how green number plates for low-emission vehicles could help make our crowded towns and cities better for all. Meanwhile, the UK hosts the world’s first low-emission vehicle summit and launches new funding for e-cargo bikes.

Low-emission cars, vans, and taxis could be equipped with green number plates under new UK plans to promote awareness of ‘clean vehicles’. That’s according to an announcement from the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Office for Low-Emission Vehicles.

The special plates, which are already used in Norway, Canada, and China, could be available on vehicles such as electric and hydrogen-powered cars. The government believes the plates may encourage drivers to take up the technologies.

As well as promoting zero-emission vehicles, green number plates could help support local incentives for electric vehicles, such as access to bus or low-emission vehicle lanes, electric charging bays, or ultra-low-emission zones.

However, enforcing official green-plate-only zones could be a challenge in areas that only have black and white cameras, as well as at night. It’s conceivable that the plan could also give rise to a new problem: green-plate fraud by drivers who are keen to use dedicated lanes to get around town.

Badges of honour

The government is launching a national consultation on the proposal. This will seek views on whether green plates could work in the UK and, if so, what they should look like, paving the way to their introduction over the next few years.

Illustrative example provided by the Department for Transport

Plates could be entirely green on the front, back, or both ends of the vehicle, or contain a green symbol, according to the announcement.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling said, “Adding a green badge of honour to these new, clean vehicles is a brilliant way of helping increase awareness of their growing popularity in the UK. It might just encourage people to think about how one could fit into their own travel routine.”

But could such a change really make a significant difference?

Changing behaviour

Elisabeth Costa believes it can. She is director of social purpose company the Behavioural Insights Team, which applies behavioural science to the redesign of public services. Costa said, “Simple changes based on behavioural science can 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.

“We support efforts to increase awareness of the numbers of clean vehicles on our roads.”

Zero Emission Vehicle Summit

The government is certainly keen to stress its credentials in this area.

This week, the UK hosts the world’s first Zero Emission Vehicle Summit on 11-12 September. At the event, nations from around the world will come together to support the uptake of green transport technologies.

Building on the government’s Road to Zero strategy and the Future of Mobility Grand Challenge – part of the new Industrial Strategy – the summit aims to spur the development of the zero-emission vehicle market worldwide.

The series of events in Birmingham and Buckinghamshire brings together ministers, industry leaders, and sector representatives to tackle carbon emissions and find ways to improve air quality.

It aims to provide opportunities to share learnings between countries that have advanced zero-emission policies/markets and those that are looking to develop them.

The summit is also designed to help facilitate new multilateral and unilateral commitments on tangible action to support zero-emission technologies.

E-cargo bike support

To herald the event, the government this morning (10 September) announced £2 million in new funding to support the uptake of e-cargo bikes – electric bikes for last-mile delivery.

The funds will help what the government calls “nimble electric delivery vehicles” to replace older, polluting vans, improving the environment and reducing urban congestion.

Minister for Low-Emission Vehicles, Jesse Norman, said: “Support for e-cargo bikes will help to ensure that Britain leads the way in the development and deployment of the technologies of the future.

“Encouraging electric delivery bikes onto our city streets will cut traffic and improve air quality, and will show how these vehicles have the potential to play an important role in the zero-emission future of this country.”

Internet of Business says

Ironically, the increasing use of an old technology, diesel delivery vans, is a direct result of the boom in a new one, internet shopping.

In the last year alone, online spending in the UK increased by 15.3 percent. The government’s latest road traffic estimates indicate that van traffic increased by 4.7 percent to 49.5 billion vehicle miles in 2016 as a result.

Most of those vans are diesel. Over time, the government expects to see increasing numbers of electric vans on city streets, but there is plenty of scope for other delivery options, including e-cargo bikes.

The government’s last mile call for evidence closes today (10 September). Since July, the programme has sought views on how the government can harness the opportunities for greener deliveries in towns and cities.

The e-cargo bikes scheme is an early response to that call, said the government this morning.