Abstract The paper proposes an IPv6 address configuration scheme for a VANET (Vehicular Ad hoc Network). In the paper, the VANET architecture is presented, and based on the architecture the hierarchical IPv6 address structure is created. Based on the hierarchical address structure, the distributed IPv6 address configuration scheme is proposed. In the scheme, each AP (Access Point) has the unique address space and has the right to assign an IPv6 address for an OBU (Onboard Unit). In this way, the address configuration task is distributed around all APs in a VANET, so the distribution of the address configuration is achieved. Moreover, an OBU acquires a unique IPv6 address from a neighbor AP without DAD (Duplicate Address Detection), so the transmission of the control packets used for the address configuration is controlled within one-hop scope. The paper also proposes the address recovery algorithm. Through the algorithm, an AP can retrieve the IPv6 address resources released by OBUs timely and effectively, so it has always sufficient address space for assignment. The paper evaluates the performance of the proposed scheme. The data results show that the proposed scheme reduces the address configuration cost, shortens the address configuration delay and improves the address configuration success rate.