(Pocket-lint) - The UK government will start to issue special green number plates for electric cars from the autumn.

The Department of Transport states that the plates will be available for zero-emission vehicles only and be signified by a green flash on the left-hand side.

Local authorities are being encouraged to reward drivers sporting the green plates on their cars, by offering incentives, such as cheaper parking and cost-free entry into zero-emission zones.

"A green recovery is key to helping us achieve our net zero carbon commitments while also promoting economic growth," said transport secretary, Grant Shapps.

"Green number plates could unlock a number of incentives for drivers and increase awareness of cleaner vehicles on our roads, showing people that a greener transport future is within our grasp."

It is not yet clear how the new number plates will be distributed. We suspect they will automatically be added to new electric vehicles at point-of-sale, but there are no indications yet on how existing drivers of zero emission cars can get their hands on a set and/or if they have to pay for the privilege (above the price of the plate printing itself).

As well as the green number plate initiative, the government has committed to spending £12 million on funding for research into improving vehicle charging technology and greener vehicles.

Writing by Rik Henderson.