Massachusetts Urged to Offer Hybrid Car Incentives

Boston Globe editorial staff endorses allowing hybrid-electric vehicles access to state's I-93 HOV lanes to encourage sales.

Published: 30-Jan-2005

WITH CONGRESS and the Bush administration refusing to raise fuel-efficiency standards for cars, states are on their own in encouraging the public to buy vehicles that use less gasoline and emit fewer pollutants, including greenhouse gases. Massachusetts should follow the lead of other states and permit solo drivers of hybrid cars to use the Interstate 93 lanes reserved for high-occupancy vehicles.

Cars like the Toyota Prius, which the manufacturer says gets 48 miles per gallon, use both a conventional gasoline engine and an electric motor. Unlike all-electric cars, there is no need to recharge a battery overnight. Currently, there are an estimated 250,000 hybrids in use in the United States. If gasoline prices continue the climb of the past year, access to the HOV lanes and other incentives will hardly be necessary to spur purchase of hybrids.

But such special privileges can ensure that hybrids maintain their popularity even if gasoline prices fall. If hybrids become so popular that they begin to clog the now lightly used lanes, access can be denied to solo drivers. During his campaign for governor, Mitt Romney suggested charging higher auto-excise taxes for vehicles with low gas mileage. The head of his Office of Commonwealth Development, Douglas Foy, has suggested reserving special parking places at suburban rail stations for owners of hybrids.

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