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Green plates or hexagonal stickers? How are electric vehicles marked in Europe?

Electric vehicles are already a common sight on the roads of EU countries. A trained eye can easily spot battery-powered cars, buses and motorcycles from a distance. Until recently, the variety of electric vehicle markings in individual European countries could have been overwhelming. As the number of battery-powered vehicles in Europe has grown rapidly, so has the need for greater standardisation. But is a single set of electric vehicle labels enough, or are solutions such as green license plates needed, or are solutions such as green license plates needed?

A standardised labelling system for electric vehicles and charging stations has been in force in the European Union since March 2021. Since then, the new labels can be seen in all 26 member states of the European Union, in the countries of the European Economic Area (Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland) as well as in Turkey, Switzerland, Serbia and Macedonia. The more transparent and, above all, standardised labels are certainly a great help for all BEV (Battery Electric Vehicle) users, especially those who travel frequently in Europe. However, the standardised labels are often complemented by additional labels.  This is worth taking a closer look at.

Which vehicles will be labelled?

First of all, it is important to be clear from the outset: standardised labelling will not be found on all electric vehicles on Europe’s roads. Under current legislation, such labels are only required for battery and hydrogen vehicles put on the market after 20 March 2021. Drivers are not required to display the stickers on older models.

Labels must be displayed on both vehicles and charging stations. The labelling requirement applies to vehicles such as mopeds, motorcycles, three- and four-wheeled vehicles, cars and light commercial vehicles, trucks and buses and coaches.

What markings should I look for?

If you are trying to find electric vehicle markings, look for hexagonal stickers with a letter in the centre. Labelling is provided in the form of a white symbol on a black background or a black symbol on a white background. The sticker varies depending on the charging technology (AC Type 2, CCS, CHAdeMO) and the voltage range of the charging station. The most common markings are in the form of the letters M, K, L or C.

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  • M – DC CHAdeMO charging
  • K – DC CCS charging
  • L – DC CCS charging (up to 920V, like ultra fast charging stations)
  • C – Type 2 AC charging

>>For more information on labelling, see.<<

Where can we find electric vehicle stickers?

Stickers can be found on EV charging sockets, on each cable and on each charging plug. You will find them at charging points next to the outlet and where the cables are stored to connect to the power supply. Standard labels are also included in user manuals and handbooks.

Standard labels are used throughout most of Europe and neighbouring countries. This means that drivers can be sure that they are using the correct charging socket for their vehicles. All they have to do is check that their vehicle has the correct label for the charging point. In the past, there have been cases of cars being charged at the wrong voltage, which can put too much strain on the battery, causing it to wear out more quickly or be destroyed completely.

But is making it easier to charge cars and buses the only reason why electric vehicles should be labelled?

Green plates

Standardising the labelling of electric vehicles across Europe will make zero-emission transport easier to use on a daily basis. But is it enough? Additional, more visible labelling may be needed. In addition to the European Union’s standardised way of labelling electric vehicles, which undoubtedly has its advantages, many countries have additional markings on vehicles to indicate the type of powertrain they use. In Poland, the UK and Austria, for example, the number plates of electric vehicles are either fully or partially green.  In Slovenia, for example, only the frame of the number plate is green, not the whole background. Again, a word of caution: in some countries, green plates are reserved for purposes other than battery electric vehicles. In Norway this is the case for… delivery vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes with one row of seats including the driver, and in Turkey for consular vehicles.

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In Poland, green plates, i.e. plates with a green background and black lettering, are for electric and hydrogen vehicles registered from 1 January 2020 that do not have a fuel tank for propulsion. Owners of older electric vehicles may or may not receive such plates. Green number plates have been fitted with legalisation stickers in Poland. The ones in red are for electric cars, and the ones in yellow –for cars that run on hydrogen. These markings have replaced the window stickers that were previously distributed to the drivers.

It pays to be different

The clear, long-range identification of zero-emission vehicles with special number plates, which has been introduced in a number of European countries, offers a number of advantages. Drivers who do not have a special plate can usually enjoy the same benefits, but vehicles with only a sticker are much harder to spot.

The green plate is a symbolic passport to convenience improvements such as the ability to drive in bus lanes, free or near-free access to paid parking zones, the ability to charge the vehicle for free and access to traffic restriction zones.

The example of green number plates shows that a more visible marking makes it easier for drivers to identify an electric vehicle, for example when driving on a busway. It also makes it easier to check that only authorised vehicles are in special zones for zero-emission vehicles. Clearly, high-visibility marking reduces the risk of irritation to other road users.

See also

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