2.12   Implement PEV HOV/HOT lane exemptions

Reason for action


In highly congested roadways with HOV/HOT lanes, providing exemption for single-occupant electric vehicles is a strong incentive for electric vehicle purchase. For example, before California exemptions for hybrid electric vehicles expired, the resale value of a Prius with an exemption sticker was $1,200 to $1,500 more than a Prius without a sticker.

Implementing the action

  • Confirm that a current HOV/HOT lane exemption statue exists. Before HOV/HOT lane exemption can be obtained on a highway funded by the federal Highway Trust Fund, the state must pass a law that allows for HOV/HOT lane exemptions. The state legislature can also revoke this statute. Many states with HOV lanes offered exemptions for inherently low emission vehicles (ILEVs) in the 1990s, which includes hybrid electric vehicles, although the statute may require updating for PEVs. By law, exempt vehicles must at the very least be ILEV, as defined by the U.S. EPA. The FHWA offers guidance on HOV lane exemption.
  • Check if the DOT has authority to extend HOV lane exemptions to electric vehicles. Sometimes, instead of passing a new law, the DOT has authority to extend the exemption to electric vehicles. States may allow for state DMVs, environmental agencies, or DOTs to determine exactly which vehicles qualify for exemption as well as the process of implementing the policy.
  • Determine which highways are eligible for exemption. For example, fewer HOT lane exemptions exist because HOT lanes are newer than HOV lanes. Moreover, if vehicles’ speed on HOV lanes on federal highways become considerably slower, defined as “degradation,” the state must implement measures to increases lane speed, including revoking electric vehicle HOV lane exemptions. Degradation may cause lane exemptions for electric vehicles to disappear faster than PEV drivers would expect. Spotlight: California’s AB 2405 exempts electric vehicles from paying tolls on HOT lanes. Spotlight: Some Virginia HOV lanes have become degraded and no exemptions have been granted for PEVs.
  • Create a smooth and efficient process for getting HOV lane exemption. States have considerable flexibility in determining which vehicles within the ILEV classification qualify for HOV lane exemption and how to implement HOV lane exemption. Spotlight: The Utah Department of Transportation has the authority to set the fee for purchasing a HOV lane-exempt decal, although the fee has to abide by a budgetary procedure. Spotlight: California DMV administers the decals for HOV lane exemptions
  • Consider raising the price of HOV lane exemption stickers or licenses. Higher prices could raise more revenue for the DOT and combat the perception that wealthier PEV and HEV drivers are able to use the HOV lane for only a small price. On the other hand, PEV drivers may perceive high prices for exemption stickers or licenses as unfair.
  • Consider the perception of HOV lane exemptions for electric vehicles. HOV lane exemption for electric vehicles may be perceived as inequitable because they give incentives to drivers of more expensive cars.
  • Monitor the HOV lane to see the effect of exemptions on congestion and air quality, a well as to prevent degradation of HOV lanes. Consider analyzing the effect of HOV lane exemption on HOV sales.


The DOT can publicize HOV/HOT lane exemptions to various PEV stakeholders and the public.

Other actions