OK, so it only took a couple of years for Rhode Island to get the hang of electric vehicle-specific license plates, like its New England neighbors. Now that the smallest state in the union has caught on, it's nice to see that Rhode Island has upped the game by including hybrids in that strategy.

Last month, Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee gave the go-ahead to have a special hybrid and electric vehicle demarcation, Rhode Island publication the Valley Breeze says. The words "Electric/Hybrid" will be placed underneath the plate numbers, where "Ocean State" usually appears. Folks buying new hybrids and plug-ins will start being given the new plates for free this fall, while people who already own vehicles with electrified powertrains will have to pay as much as $31.50 to get their plates switched over.

The stated reason for the new plates is safety. Specifically, the plates will let first responders who might have to use the jaws of life to pry a driver out of a vehicle know which cars are juiced and could therefore present a risk for electrocution. Massachusetts started doing the same thing a couple of years ago by adding the silhouette of a little-bitty green electric vehicle to some of its plates.

Despite being behind on the plate front, Rhode Island has been forward-thinking when it comes to advanced-powertrain vehicles. Last year, the state awarded a $781,000 contract to ChargePoint to build out plug-in vehicle charging stations at many of its beaches and state parks.

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