Hybrid and electric vehicles sold in NSW from this year must have an ‘EV’ (electric vehicle) warning sticker on their registration plates – following a similar requirement from authorities in Victoria since 2013.
However, emergency services will still be left guessing in other states which are yet to follow – and even NSW and Victoria cannot agree on common symbols.
NSW uses a warning triangle for EVs, Victoria uses a diamond shaped electric-car label for licence plates. In NSW, hydrogen cars must display a pentagonal-shaped label (see examples below).
The warning signs are designed to advise emergency service workers responding to a crash that the vehicle may be equipped with a large battery pack and may need to be disabled or disconnected to prevent a potential fire.
While the design of certain vehicles such as the Toyota Prius hybrid and Tesla electric cars are distinctive and easier for emergency crews to identify, it is becoming more difficult for emergency crews to distinguish which vehicles may have battery packs on board given the widespread rollout of hybrid tech on mainstream models such as the Toyota Corolla, Camry and RAV4.
Hydrogen vehicles such as the upcoming Hyundai Nexo will also need to display yellow ‘H’ warning labels on their plates, whereas models such as the Hyundai Ioniq (pictured above) will wear a triangular 'EV' tag whether it is a hybrid, plug-in hybrid or fully electric car.
In the US, Tesla is currently facing a lawsuit after an owner died when the vehicle’s battery pack caught fire following a crash. It was alleged the crash would have been otherwise survivable.
The NSW requirement to display an EV warning triangle (pictured above and below) on the front and rear registration plates of hybrid and electric cars – and the rear only on hybrid or electric motorbikes and scooters – was introduced in NSW in 1 January 2019.
All vehicles manufactured after this date must display the ‘EV’ labels – which are supplied by transport authorities – however enforcement of the new law won’t come into effect until 1 January 2020.
In Victoria, hybrid and electric cars not displaying a ‘hybrid’ or ‘EV’ label are subject to a fine or a defect, although the VicRoads website does not nominate the cost of the penalty.
A letter sent by Roads and Maritime Services in NSW says the labels have been introduced “as a safety initiative to help Emergency Services staff and first responders in the event of a crash”.
“They will allow vehicles to be quickly identified as having an electric or hydrogen component, so specific procedures can be used to make the incident safer for everyone,” the letter says.
Customers are then advised to “please ensure the enclosed self-adhesive labels are securely fixed to your vehicle’s front and rear number plates”.
The letter does not explain what the NSW penalty will be for not displaying the ‘EV’ warning label, however it will likely be similar to Victoria: a defect or a fine at the officer’s discretion.