How You (and your EV) Can Get Moving in BC


Plug in.

Charge up.


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?
HOV Sign - Cropped

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;
  • taxis;
  • motorcycles;
  • 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!


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31 Responses to How You (and your EV) Can Get Moving in BC

  1. ken on July 8, 2016 at 9:44 pm

    will that be possible using H.O.V entrance or exit ? How long it will takes to get DECAL.I want to make sure.

    • tranbceditor on July 12, 2016 at 1:11 pm

      Hi Ken, Thanks for your questions about HOV decals. I am checking into this and will get back to you.

    • tranbceditor on July 12, 2016 at 1:22 pm

      Hi Ken,

      It takes between three and six weeks to provide the HOV decal, after we have received a complete application.

      I am not sure what you are asking in the first part of your post, “will that be possible using H.O.V entrance or exit?” Could you please explain?

      Best Regards

  2. Eva on July 26, 2016 at 11:34 am

    I believe for most of them who are buying the EVs, they really need to drive for a long way as daily uses.

    Just confusing why the process is taking this long time to be completed. Since some EVs need to be ordered and waited for 2-3 months to be delivered, and then we need to wait for an other six weeks or more to apply for the decal and actually get it, which means EV owners need to figure out by themselves how to drive on the packed highways everyday in at least two months…either use GAS (as an EREV, I am glad I got this type of EV) or charge on the way to work/home for half hours or longer…

    We are a little regret to support green environment and get an EV because we have been waiting for 2 months for decal even we applied it two weeks before we actually get the car……..

    Still have not received yet.

    • tranbceditor on July 26, 2016 at 1:47 pm

      Hi Eva,

      Thanks for letting us know about your concern with getting your electric vehicle sticker. I checked with the program administrator about the status of your application. It has been approved and the sticker has been put in the mail, so you should be receiving it shortly. Thanks for your patience.

  3. Steve on July 27, 2016 at 12:43 am

    Tesla cars by definition are 100% electric: could you consider allowing this brand HOV access without the sticker? Teslas are distinctive enough and I imagine our officers are trained to recognize cars on sight. While the access is a welcome benefit, I’m sorry to say the sticker is unfortunately quite ugly.

    • tranbceditor on July 28, 2016 at 11:34 am

      Hi Steve,

      I’m checking in with our folks about your proposal of not using the electronic vehicle sticker, while driving in the HOV lane. (Sorry you find it visually unappealing).

      • tranbceditor on August 2, 2016 at 7:56 pm

        Hi Steve,

        Regulations state that all vehicles in the HOV lane that qualify for this program must have a decal on the vehicle’s rear window or rear bumper. The decal provides law enforcement personnel with a consistent marker to distinguish between vehicles that are eligible for the EV-HOV program and those that are not eligible.

  4. Mike Scholz on August 10, 2016 at 8:15 am

    Can I drive in the bus lane/van pool lane with my EV while displaying a sticker

    • tranbceditor on August 10, 2016 at 9:45 am

      Hi Mike,

      Good question! We asked the folks responsible for this program and, unfortunately, bus/van lanes are restricted to buses and vans only. Thanks for connecting with us here and if you have any other questions, let us know.

  5. L.J. on August 30, 2016 at 7:32 am

    Specific question:
    I have an EV with the appropriate decal.
    May I legally use the restricted bus/van pool/ motorcycle lane entering both ends of the Lions Gate Bridge???
    I have seen many Taxi’s, Medical vehicles and Testas doing so, but I would like clarification.
    Thank-you for your assistance with this…

  6. Bill Langlais on November 23, 2016 at 11:19 pm

    I am an american living in BC from November through Aprl as a Tourist. My car is registered in Massachusetts. It is a Tesla and Mass license plates for Electric Vehicles start with EV and have the EV symbol on the license plate. Is this enough to drive in the HOV lane? If not can a US registered EV car drive in the HOV lane?

    Thanks for any info!

    • Bill Langlais on November 23, 2016 at 11:21 pm

      Sorry that last question was suppose to be:

      Can a US registered car apply for a EV decal?

    • tranbceditor on November 24, 2016 at 10:34 am

      Hi Bill,

      We are looking into this for you. Stay tuned!

    • tranbceditor on November 28, 2016 at 10:01 am

      Hi Bill,

      You are more than welcome to apply for an HOV decal. We have sent them as far as Arizona. If you need assistance, please contact

  7. Bill Langlais on November 24, 2016 at 11:43 am


  8. Ali Miri on December 8, 2016 at 8:12 pm

    I have BMW I3 with appropriate EV OK decal. My question is can I drive on HOV lanes that I only for buses.
    Specifically, I am wondering about the stretch on Hastings, west of Boundary Rd to Downtown area.

    Thank You

  9. Stephen on December 11, 2016 at 5:45 pm

    I can understand allowing EVs access to HOV lanes, but don’t quite understand the rationale in allowing Hybrid vehicles access, given that they still burn hydrocarbons. But let’s leave that aside for now.

    Reviewing your rationale for allowing these types of vehicles on HOV lanes regardless of number of passengers, I’m wondering why motorcycles are allowed on some bus HOV lanes…more specifically, the north end of the Lions Gate bridge? Can you explain your rationale? They burn hydrocarbons and while it may be less than a not hybrid or EV vehicle, they still take up a car length when moving on to the bridge. Please, explain?

    • tranbceditor on December 20, 2016 at 11:43 am

      Hi Stephen,

      Thanks for your question. We have sent it forward to our HOV experts and will get back to you with an answer as soon as we have it.

    • tranbceditor on December 20, 2016 at 5:41 pm


      Motorcycles are allowed to use some bus lanes because they do not make up a large proportion of vehicles on our road system and take up less space in the lane than passenger vehicles. Motorcycles also have less crash protection than passenger vehicles so are allowed in HOV and some bus lanes as a way to increase motorcycle operator safety.

      Electric vehicles are not permitted in bus lanes because the increase in the number of vehicles in these lanes would increase bus travel times.

      Hope that this helps!

  10. Tamara on January 23, 2017 at 2:22 pm


    Are EVs with the decal allowed to use the HOV labeled lanes on either side of the Lions Gate bridge?

    • tranbceditor on January 25, 2017 at 11:51 am

      Hi Tamara,

      There are two types of High Capacity Vehicle Lanes in BC: HOV Lanes and Bus Lanes. A person driving an electric vehicle that does not meet the passenger number requirements but displays an official “EV OK” decal is permitted to use HOV Lanes. They are not permitted to use Bus Only Lanes. It is important that EV drivers examine the signs closely to ensure they are using HOV Lanes and not Bus Lanes. Hope that this helps.

  11. Steven on February 2, 2017 at 3:39 pm

    I was pulled over by police on Hastings street. I was heading west in the HOV lane and was just two blocks into Vancouver. This is not a bus lane but is an HOV lane. They said my EV was not allowed in this HOV lane. The police guy told me that there are two kinds of HOV lanes; provincial and municipal. he said I was not allowed on municipal HOV lanes, only provincial like Highway One. he let me off with a warning thankfully, but it was a shock as I never knew this. I’m still not sure I believe it. Is it true?

    • tranbceditor on February 7, 2017 at 10:33 am

      Hi Steven. For those HOV lanes 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.

      • Kelly Carmichael on February 8, 2017 at 7:12 am

        Hastings street restricted lane is for Bus/Cycle only. Diamond does not equal HOV, this does not appear to be an HOV lane. Unlike Willingdon Ave which is Bus/6+/Cycle (which is referred to as HOV on several signs)

  12. Ken Hobson on February 27, 2017 at 9:18 pm

    Why aren’t gas-hybrids cars (not trucks/SUVs) allowed in HOV lane with decal? Government pushes people to purchase them but restricts them ! It’s like wear your seat belt it saves lives ! But make a killing on taxes by selling cigarettes ! Double standard ??

    • tranbceditor on February 28, 2017 at 1:49 pm

      Hi Ken. The blog explains that 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.

  13. Dave Jones on March 6, 2017 at 3:34 pm

    I am totally confused and let down by the lack of approval for “converted” electric cars to be allowed to use HOV lanes. The folks who drive converted electric cars (IE 100% Battery or BEV) are the original pioneers of this green effort, desiring to eliminate CO spewing cars from the road long before the major manufacturers took notice. The owners of these cars, myself included, went to enormous brute force effort to do these conversions, and are more conscientious and promoting as to the benefits of this technology. Some proudly emblazoning their vehicles with giant “ELECTRIC POWERED” logos and such, and sometimes even painting them green. What better promotion for the Government and fledging EV industry to have such a vehicle zipping past polluting cars in the HOV lane ?

    I believe the BC government should allow HOV lane applications for converted vehicles – as long as the vehicle registration fuel code indicates an “E” for electric shouldn’t that be enough ?

    Even though the web site states its about reward EV drivers for their sustainable Eco practices, in this case its more like a punishment.

    I look forward to hearing back about this. Thanks for your assistance !

    • tranbceditor on March 8, 2017 at 11:32 am

      Hi Dave,

      Thanks for connecting with us here. We have sent your question forward to the program manager for review and hope to have a response for you very soon. Stay tuned!

    • tranbceditor on March 9, 2017 at 4:51 pm

      Hi Dave,

      At this time, the electric vehicle in HOV lanes designation is available to the same vehicles that are on the Clean Energy Vehicle Program list ( As you note, these are all original equipment manufacturer electric vehicles, and do not include conversions. While we recognize the pioneering efforts of those who have converted vehicles to electric, it is challenging to verify that conversions are maintained to be electric throughout the vehicle’s registered life. However, your comment will be considered as we move forward with the electric vehicles in HOV lanes program.

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