Electric cars could soon be fitted with green number plates to raise awareness of low-emission vehicles, the government has announced.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has launched a public consultation into the plan, which would see the bright plates fitted to ultra-low emission vehicles including electric cars such as the Nissan Leaf and plug-in hybrid cars such as the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.

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Similar plates are already used by countries including Norway and Canada, where the DfT says they are “thought to encourage uptake” of low-emission vehicles.

However, the DfT claims that the plates would do more than just promote technology should they arrive on our roads. The organisation also says the plates could be used to help local authorities with incentives for electric vehicles, such as access to bus lanes, electric charging bays and ultra-low-emission zones.

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The plans are part of a government consultation that will seek public views on whether the plates will work in the UK and what they should look like.

Potential designs include an all-green background on the front, rear or both ends of the vehicle, or a green symbol on the existing black-on-white and black-on-yellow plates.

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The Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, said the green plates would be a “badge of honour” for environmentally friendly vehicles.

“The UK has a proud history of leading the world in technological advances and that is no different for ultra low emission vehicles, where we are at the forefront of innovation and testing.

“This new cleaner, greener transport has the potential to bring with it cleaner air, a better environment and stronger economies for countries around the world.

“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, and might just encourage people to think about how one could fit into their own travel routine.”

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Elisabeth Costa, Director at The Behavioural Insights Team, which works with the Cabinet Office to apply behavioural science to government policy, said: “We support efforts to increase awareness of the numbers of clean vehicles on our roads. 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.”

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The news comes ahead of the world’s first Zero-Emission Vehicle Summit, which will be hosted by the UK government between September 11 and 12.

The summit in Buckinghamshire is designed to bring together nations from around the world, in a bid to support the development and uptake of green vehicles. The government wants the countries of the world to pledge collective action towards zero-emission journeys, while also showcasing the UK as one of the world leaders in zero-emission innovation.