Sales of hybrid cars like the Prius are booming not only because drivers wish to spend less on gas and reduce their emissions, but because they want everyone to know they’re driving a hybrid. Today the Ontario government proposed a plan that might add an additional layer of smugness to your vehicle: a conspicuous green license plate.
If a vehicle met certain specifications of a to-be-determined rating system, the Province would issue the special plate which would then entitle the driver to special perks, like HOV lanes and parking discounts. The program would also apply to commercial vehicles and light trucks that meet the criteria.
Expected to launch by the spring, the green plate plan is part of a new environmental initiative announced today by Transportation Minister Donna Cansfield. The proposal also includes a $15 million pilot project that would help Ontario businesses convert about 1,000 commercial vehicles to “cleaner” technologies and revamp some of Ontario’s own fleet of government vehicles to use 85% ethanol (ethyl alcohol) fuel.
Granting perks for cleaner cars has been employed in Virginia, where hybrid drivers can bypass the notorious traffic in and out of Washington, D.C. and zip along in the carpool lane. It has almost worked too well—avoiding traffic was reason enough for motorists to run out and buy a Prius, and the HOV lanes soon became jammed with hybrids, leading the Transportation Department to call for an end to the privilege.
Like the State of Virginia, the Ontario government already offers a tax rebate of up to $2,000 for drivers who use the cleaner vehicles, which helps offset the increased cost to buy or lease them. Sure, many Ontario motorists clamoring for the green plate privilege will be doing it for self-serving reasons, but if it gets people in the habit of buying hybrids, biodiesels or electrics, we’re all for it.