RMV looking to jump start green cars in Massachusetts

Jon Chesto

A Registry of Motor Vehicles task force is slated to begin meeting this week to figure out the best ways to update the state’s regulations and laws to allow more flexibility for environmentally friendly vehicles.

Registry spokeswoman Ann Dufresne said the RMV task force, which is scheduled to meet for the first time on Thursday, hopes to craft some regulatory changes, as well as legislative changes that can be presented to the Legislature by the end of the year.

Registry officials are looking for ways to accommodate certain lower-speed, zero emission vehicles that are not envisioned in current state statutes. Registry officials recently decided the agency could not allow ZAP Xebra three-wheel electric vehicles because they don’t fit certain legal definitions of a car or a motorcycle, even though some drivers had already registered the lower-speed vehicles with the RMV.

Dufresne said her agency’s review will be much broader than just the Xebra and similar vehicles, and will include mopeds, scooters and other fuel-efficient vehicles that have increased in popularity in the face of record-setting gas prices earlier this year.

“This task force is going to take a comprehensive look at the laws that are currently on the books that define various vehicles,” Dufresne said. “If you’re going to look at one ‘green vehicle,’ you have to look at all of them. ... It needs to be a comprehensive approach. We can’t just let these vehicles in willy-nilly.”

Sen. Robert Hedlund, a Weymouth Republican, said he’s glad the Registry is taking the issue seriously. Earlier this year, Hedlund had pushed for legislation that would have allowed vehicles like the Xebra, which has atop speed of 40, on certain roadways in the state.

“We need to get into the 21st century,” said Hedlund, a member of the Legislature’s transportation committee. “It’s not like we were out to stifle these vehicles. It’s just that the technology has surpassed our statutes.”

Dufresne said the task force will aim to present recommendations to the Legislature in time for formal sessions in January.

“I think it’s a sincere effort,” Hedlund said of the task force. “It’s not a typical Beacon Hill, ‘make window dressing’ committee or commission.”

Jon Chesto may be reached atjchesto@ledger.com.