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Hawaii law amended to allow electric vehicles to use HOV lanes regardless of passenger count

The Hawaii Department of Transportation Tuesday announced that the state law has been amended to allow electric vehicles to use high-occupancy vehicle lanes regardless of the number of people in the car.

Electric vehicles must have affixed EV license plates in order to do so.

A number of free perks for EVs in Hawaii, including free parking at state airports and most state and county parking lots and meters ended June 30, 2020, despite legislative efforts to keep them going.

At the time, however, DOT said it would work on continuing to offer EV drivers access to the HOV lanes regardless of the number of passengers because of support from the Federal Highway Administration.

HOV lanes are usually reserved for drivers with one or more passengers, and designed to encourage carpools and vanpools.

The perks were part of Act 168 — a law enacted in 2012 — to provide incentives for the purchase of electric vehicles in the state.

EVs have been touted as a way for Hawaii to reduce greenhouse emissions and reach its clean energy goals.

Gov. David Ige, who is attending the United Nations’ climate change conference, or COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland, has said at previous press conferences that ground transportation in Hawaii accounts for about a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions, and that EVs support the transition away from coal and fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy.

During the summer, Ige signed three bills encouraging the use of EVs in the state, including the conversion of Hawaii’s light-duty motor vehicles to a zero-emission fleet by Dec. 31, 2035.

As of October, there were about 17,000 passenger electric vehicles in the state, according to the Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism, a 31.5% jump from the same month last year, and 2.7% increase from September.

Still, those 17,000 passenger EVs only represent about 1.6% of the 1,053,953 registered passenger vehicles in the state, according to DBEDT.

”EV use of HOV lanes is supported because of the reduction in transportation related pollution and reduction in fossil fuel dependency,” said DOT in a news release. “In general, HOV lanes are designated to remove vehicles from normal lanes by incentivizing carpooling or use of public transportation.”

A list of HOV lanes on state highways can be found at hidot.hawaii.gov/highways/special-use-lanes/.

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