Carpooling friends

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Parking and HOV Lanes: The Secret Perks of EV Ownership

Fringe benefits: Electric vehicles produce little to no emissions

The benefits of EV ownership are worth celebrating: EVs are better for the environment, require less maintenance, and you get tax breaks galore.  But there are other perks you might not be aware of: Being an EV owner also means you’ll snag more of a VIP experience when you slide into a parking spot.  

You Often Get to Park Really Close 

Woman loading groceries into EV at supermarket charging station,


Have you ever noticed that when you pull into certain stores, businesses, or hotels, a couple of free EV charging stations are near the entrance? These parking spots are marked for EV parking only and sometimes have a 1-hour time limit for charging although some do allow overnight access.

Businesses that include these spots do pay for the privilege of hosting these charging stations but they know it also attracts EV owners to their store over others, so the cost is worth it to them.

Because the charging equipment requires lots of electricity, they are within close reach of a barrier-free access aisle and the EV. You won’t always need to charge up your vehicle but it’s a convenient option for when your battery is a bit low, and it’s a sweet perk as these spots are super close to buildings.

Another parking perk? According to The Kleinman Center for Energy Policy, many cities provide free or discounted EV parking at charging stations in municipal garages. This perk can save you quite a bit, as all-day parking fees can get pricey in covered spots such as city garages.

The next time you’re out and about in your EV, keep your eyes peeled for a free charging spot and consider it an eco-win for the day. 

You Can Get HOV Access, Even if it’s Just You 

HOV lane sign over a highway

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Zipping along in the HOV lane is a bit like scoring a FastPass+ at Disney World. It’s empowering, fun, and you can feel a little bit superior over those drivers slogging along in the non-HOV lane next to you. 

HOV access lanes are a huge benefit for EV drivers, even those without passengers. Usually, those lanes are brimming with carpooling commuters and ride sharers, but EVers can drive solo in these lanes in a handful of states, including California, Arizona, Colorado, Maryland, and more. Every state's HOV incentives are a little different, so check your state websites for specifics.

Take a look at the Alternative Fuels Data Center’s list of states and provinces that let EVs in the HOV lane or offer high-occupancy toll (HOT) incentives for electric vehicles.

Many states give HOV access to EVs via a special sticker or license plate to indicate that the vehicle is eligible to drive in the high-occupancy lane. These benefits have hugely influenced folks to buy EVs, especially in densely populated areas like San Francisco and Los Angeles. According to a UCLA study about EV adoption rates, access to the carpool lane is the “single biggest incentive” to buy electric vehicles for Californians living within 10 miles of an HOV lane. 

The ability to slash greenhouse gas emissions in half is another plus. Research has shown that providing HOV lane access for electric vehicles can jumpstart EV adoption in other areas and could make a dent in cutting emissions across the United States. 

Qualifying models for HOV lane programs vary by state, so be sure to check with your home state’s transportation website for the requirements in your area.

It’s also worth noting that state HOV lane programs are continually evolving as qualifying vehicle registrations have jumped in number. The states that paved the way in utilizing HOV lane exemptions for EVs—such as Arizona, California, and Virginia—discovered the programs were so successful that they reached their maximum planned HEV (hybrid electric vehicles) quota a lot earlier than anticipated.

Be sure to do your research into HOV access while you are researching EVs. 

EV Eligibility, IDs, Permits, and Other Perks 

Electric vehicle license plate

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Once you’ve checked to see whether your state offers HOV lane access for your EV, there is a bit more to wrap your head around. 

Some programs may have a cap on participants, so it makes sense to apply early to get your benefits. 


According to the Alternative Fuels Data Center, the ID method for eligible vehicles varies per state. Some places use special license plates or decals that limit eligibility to in-state registered vehicles.

Also, the fees for decals and license plates differ and may include yearly or one-time charges. Some states, like North Carolina and New Jersey, do not require identification for eligible vehicles, which means qualified out-of-state EVs may also use high-occupancy lanes. In the Garden State, in comparison, qualified drivers need to register their HOT transponders to receive a 10% toll discount.


Another thing to consider are permits. Special permits for EVs stay with the vehicle, not the driver. If you sell your EV, the permit remains with it.

If you buy a used EV, be sure you ask the current owner for any permits that should stay with the vehicle.

Other EV Owner Perks

You can feel good about driving an EV for countless reasons. Access to the HOV lane tops the list for those with heinous commutes or who live in cities with the worst traffic but there are tax rebates and state incentives that can drop purchase prices substantially, for instance.

There are also lower repair and maintenance costs, and fuel savings that far outweigh any associated electricity costs.

The perks of driving an EV seem almost limitless. But getting to your destination without planet-destroying emissions might be one of the best highlights of all.