Owners of electric vehicles (EVs) are getting a boost to their travel times thanks to recent legislative changes allowing them to use High Occupancy Vehicles (HOV) lanes in BC (regardless of the number of passengers being carried).
First, determine if your EV qualifies. There are many types of EVs out there, and not all of them are eligible.
Eligible vehicles include:
- Battery electric vehicle (BEV) also called BEVs, are fully-electric vehicles with rechargeable batteries and no gasoline engine.
- Fuel cell vehicle (FCV) are driven by an electric motor but instead of being charged by a battery, they create electricity in an onboard fuel cell.
- Plug in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) can recharge the battery through regenerative braking and “plugging in” to an external power source.
- Extended range electric vehicle (EREV) run on battery until their charge is low at which point a gasoline engine switches on to recharge the battery.
Once you’ve confirmed your vehicle qualifies, you can apply for a decal and a permit. If you are looking for more information on EVs, like incentives, frequently asked questions, charging guidelines or benefits, our friends at BC Hydro, LiveSmart BC and CEV for BC have great resources you should check out.
HOV Lanes Explained:
High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes were created to move more people in fewer vehicles, reducing congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. HOV lanes are in place on several provincial highways and urban corridors in the Lower Mainland and Kelowna. Allowing EVs to use HOV lanes is a great step toward greener transportation and a great incentive to encourage more people to purchase electric vehicles today.
HOV/EV FAQ Answered:
Why are we allowing electric vehicles in HOV lanes, without the usual occupancy requirements?
One of the key elements in our BC on the Move 10-year transportation plan was to take measures to reduce environmental impacts in the transportation sector by supporting alternative and more fuel-efficient vehicle technologies.This includes supporting alternative and more fuel-efficient vehicle technologies to reduce environmental impacts, such as electric vehicles. Drivers who make environmentally friendly decisions by deciding to buy an electric vehicle should be rewarded and allowing them into HOV lanes, regardless of the number of passengers, is one way to do that.
By allowing electric vehicles to use HOV lanes, electric vehicle owners can reduce their time in traffic and avoid running out of charge when they’re travelling greater distance or through busy traffic areas.
Why is an electric vehicle HOV decal required?
Many newer electric vehicles are hard to distinguish from gas vehicles as manufacturers use similar body frames for both types of vehicles.
To assist the police in enforcing HOV lane use, a decal must be displayed on the vehicle’s rear bumper or window.
Electric vehicle operators using an HOV lane will not be stopped by law enforcement officers if a decal is properly displayed.
The decal will also indicate to other drivers that the electric vehicle is eligible to be in the HOV lane.
Will owners have to pay to get the decal?
No. The decals are free and don’t expire.
Will all electric vehicles have access to the HOV lanes without the occupancy requirement?
Eligible vehicles for the program include: 1) Battery electric vehicles, 2) Fuel cell vehicles, 3) Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and 4) Extended range electric vehicles.
Gas-hybrid vehicles will not be eligible.
What’s the difference between a plug in Hybrid and a regular Hybrid vehicle?
There are three categories of Advanced Vehicle Technologies currently available:
- Battery Electric Vehicles employ electric motors and rechargeable batteries. They must be plugged in to recharge when the batteries run low. These vehicles have no tailpipe CO2 emissions. Examples of this type of vehicle include the Ford Focus Electric and the Nissan Leaf.
- Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle. This advanced technology employs an internal combustion engine and high capacity battery that is charged by being plugged into an external electric source. They primarily run on the electric charge at lower speeds and use the combustion engine only as a backup. This vehicle category includes the Chevrolet Volt (0 – 2,944 kg/year of CO2 emissions) and the Toyota Prius Plug-In (184 – 1,748 kg/year of CO2 emissions).
- Hybrid Gas – Electric vehicles are defined as vehicles that combine conventional internal combustion engines and battery electric engines. These vehicles recharge their batteries through the use of the conventional internal combustion engine, coasting and regenerative braking. They do not require charging by external electricity. Examples of this type of hybrid technology include the Toyota Prius, which has a CO2 emission of 1,748 kg/year, and the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid Electric, which emits 4,324 kg/year of CO2 emissions.
We are looking to allow Battery Electric and Plug-in Electric vehicles due to their lower emissions and limited numbers.
Why isn’t a gas-hybrid engine vehicle considered an electric vehicle?
Gas-hybrids offer a more fuel-efficient technology than pure gas vehicles, but due to the high number of gas-hybrid vehicles currently registered in the province, our analysis indicates that allowing them to use HOV lanes would have a negative impact on the HOV lane’s level of service.
Can authorized electric vehicles access every HOV lane in the province?
The amendment to the Motor Vehicle Act Regulation provides access to every HOV lane by authorized electric vehicles, unless a sign is posted indicating otherwise. This includes HOV lanes in the Lower Mainland and Kelowna.
The regulation allows the province to post a sign where it is necessary to prohibit electric vehicles from using a HOV lane in order to maintain the HOV lane’s level of service.
What will happen if too many electric vehicles use the HOV lane?
We will continue to monitor HOV lane traffic volumes. If a lane becomes congested, and the level of service decreases, we may consider posting a sign to make it necessary for electric vehicles to meet the occupancy requirement while using the HOV lane.
This can be done on a case by case or highway by highway basis.
Can a local government determine if electric vehicles can use a HOV lane in their jurisdiction?
For those HOV lanes that are under the jurisdiction of a municipality, the local government will determine if electric vehicles can use the lanes. If not authorized, a sign will be posted.
What other vehicles are exempt from the occupancy requirements for an HOV lane?
Other types of vehicles that do not have to meet the occupancy requirements include:
- emergency vehicles;
- marked vehicles that are aiding a disabled vehicle in the HOV lane;
- peace officers while on duty;
- HandyDART vehicles; and
- blood services vehicles, when transporting blood.
Are there plans for more HOV lanes in British Columbia?
Whenever we upgrade or construct a new highway, the Province considers the best way to move vehicles and this includes research, analysis and possible addition of HOV lanes.
Are there any other incentives B.C. is considering for electric vehicle owners?
The B.C. government has an incentive program that offers up to $5,000 for battery electric or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. This program is one reason this province has the highest per capita sales of electric vehicles in the country.
Do you have a question about this or any other transportation topic? Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook or in the comments below and we will be happy to help. Happy (and greener) trails!