Why do some cars have green number plates? The new EV registrations explained, the incentives they offer and how to get one

From early December a new type of number plate has begun appearing on some new cars.

On top of the regular white front and yellow rear plates, some cars now display a bright green flash down the left-hand side and the new look is set to become a more common sight on the UK’s roads.

What do green number plates mean?

The green number plates are a new initiative from the Government aimed at encouraging the uptake of electric cars.

The UK is set to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 and wants drivers to begin moving to zero-emissions vehicles such as electric cars now. Currently just under six per cent of new vehicle registrations are EVs.

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The plates are being fitted to all new electric cars to indicate that they are zero-emissions vehicles. They are also being fitted to any other zero-emissions vehicles, such as hydrogen fuel cell cars.

Part of the reason given for their introduction is to increase public awareness of zero-emissions vehicles and encourage more drivers to buy one. According to YouGov polling for Nissan, 32 per cent of people said the plates and the prospect of associated incentives would encourage them to buy an EV.


One of the main reasons given for introducing the plates is to help drivers access local incentives only available to zero-emission vehicles.

The Government has not given specific examples but it has been suggested these could include ensuring free access to the growing number of low-emissions zones in towns and cities around the UK.

(Image: UK Governmnet)(Image: UK Governmnet)
(Image: UK Governmnet)

Drivers with the green plates could also benefit from free or discounted public parking and charging in cities trying to reduce pollution levels.

A similar scheme in Ontario, Canada also gives cars with green plates free access to priority traffic lanes such as car pool lanes, even if there is only one occupant.

Are they compulsory and can I get them for older EVs?

No, the green number plates are not mandatory. However, they are being introduced on an opt-out basis so will be fitted to all new EVs as standard. If you’d rather not have them fitted to your new EV you will have to tell the car dealer this before the car is registered.

The plates are also available retrospectively, so owners of older vehicles, including cars, vans, buses, taxis, HGVs and motorbikes can apply for a new set of plates with the green flash as long as their vehicle emits no CO2 at the tailpipe.

To get a green number plate for an older vehicle, you can apply at any registered number plate supplier. You will need to prove your name and address and prove that you have the right to use the registration mark. If your vehicle is registered as zero-emission you will be able to buy a new green plate.