Looks like Ford will be the OEM to break the seal on offering digital license plates to its customers. The automaker entered into an agreement with Reviver, maker of the RPlate Digital License Plate, to add the RPlate to Ford’s official accessory catalog with a unique part number. Someone buying a Ford at a dealership can buy a plate at the dealer’s in-store merchandise shop and have it installed there, or hit up Ford’s online store and have an RPlate delivered. This is a limited rollout to start, the plates available at 300 Ford dealers in the states that have approved the RPlate for consumer use: Arizona, California and Michigan. Drivers might see RPlates in Texas, but for the moment they’re limited to use in commercial and governmental fleets.
Reviver, after years developing its e-Ink screen and digital plate, launched a pilot program with the state of California in 2018. At the time, the plate with a replaceable battery started at about $699 and required a $7 monthly service charge. With scale has come slightly lower costs, Reviver selling that same plate for $599 and the annual service plan for $75 per year. A second plate option is mounted to the vehicle and hardwired into the vehicle’s electrical system; it runs $749 plus $150 for installation and $95 per year for the service plan. The battery in the user-installed model is said to be good for five years, the hardwired RPlate option is especially geared to fleets.
RPlates are only mounted on the rear for now, so states that require front plates would insist on an old-fashioned metal unit screwed to the front fascia. The plates are legal to use in all 50 U.S. states, Canada and Mexico.
Why would you want one? The biggest reason is most likely aesthetics. Perhaps you like the monochromatic look in either a light or dark mode for your car more than any of the other available plate options. You’re also able to write a personalized message that shows up on the lower portion of the plate. “Renewal” can be set up to happen automatically, paid through an app, so your digital display represents the year and month that your registration is good for — no sticker necessary. Reviver says its plates will operate in temperatures between minus-40 degrees and 176 degrees Fahrenheit. The list of potential features depending on which plate a person buys includes built-in GPS, real-time alerts when the vehicle is moved, mileage tracking and stolen vehicle alerts through an app and on the plate. Features in development include fully customizable banner messages, the ability to utilize the license plate as a virtual wallet and as a parking meter, and streamlined digital tolling capabilities that will be available nationwide.
The digitization of car buying and car owning is expanding is less visible places as well. Digital titles have been around for a little more than two decades and now available in about 20 states, that list growing every year. Champ Titles and partner Tyler Technologies just rolled out digital titles and electronic liens in the middle of the country, taking matters electric in West Virginia two years ago and this year opening a national e-title clearinghouse through the West Virginia DMV, and this month cleared to set up an e-title system for Kentucky. Just like Reviver touts its RPlate as cutting down on the expense of metal plates and the paperwork of registrations, Champ and Tyler say digital registrations in West Virginia “eliminated more than 5 million pieces of paper annually, reduced the processing time from 40-60 days to a matter of hours, and increased productivity with title clerks processing five times as many titles per day.”