2011 Chevy Volt: No $5K Rebate, HOV-Lane Access For CA Buyers

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2011 Chevrolet Volt pre-production prototype, January 2010

2011 Chevrolet Volt pre-production prototype, January 2010

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Now we know: The first two plug-in cars from major manufacturers will go head-to-head on warranties and lease prices: $350 a month for the 2011 Chevrolet Volt, $349 for the 2011 Nissan Leaf.

Now the choice shifts to other measures, including electric and overall range, as well as the plug-in perks that states like California offer to early adopters to encourage them to opt for electric cars.

This is where it gets interesting. While California loves the Nissan Leaf, current regulations deny Chevy Volt buyers two significant perks: a $5,000 rebate, and permission to drive solo in HOV Lanes.

2011 Nissan Leaf

2011 Nissan Leaf

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Federal credits yes, CA rebate no

Both the 2011 Leaf and the 2011 Volt are eligible for the maximum $7,500 federal tax credit that goes to buyers of plug-in cars with battery packs of 16 kilowatt-hours or more.

Some states add their own incentives as well. Georgia and Oregon, for example, offer state tax credits ($5,000 and $1,500 respectively).

California offers a tax rebate instead, a measure considered more powerful than tax credits because the rebate check that comes in the mail effectively cuts the car's purchase price within weeks, rather than making buyers wait until they file their taxes.

Are you an AT-PZEV, little car?

The highest California rebate of $5,000 goes only to zero-emission vehicles, those cars with no tailpipes. The all-electric Nissan Leaf qualifies, but the Volt--whose range-extending gasoline engine switches on to provide electricity when the battery is depleted--does not.

California's EV buyers had expected the Volt to qualify instead for a reduced rebate of roughly $3,000, says EV advocate Chelsea Sexton.

But that hope was quashed when the Volt didn't qualify as an Advanced Technology Partial Zero-Emissions Vehicle (AT-PZEV), a specific category of clean vehicle in the California's complicated taxonomy of emissions classes.

In the eyes of California regulators, the plug-in 2011 Chevrolet Volt is no cleaner than the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze compact--despite its ability to run solely on grid power for up to 40 miles, including at freeway speeds.

prototype 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, April 2010

prototype 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, April 2010

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The 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, on the other hand, does qualify as an AT-PZEV and will get a partial rebate, even though it must run its gasoline engine at freeway speeds.

No HOV perks either?

The other major plug-in perk is single-driver access to California's high-occupancy vehicle lanes, greatly prized in congested San Francisco and Los Angeles traffic. But current legislation won't extend that to the Volt either.

A bill before the California Senate, SB-535, is intended to let plug-in cars with a sole occupant into the HOV lanes. It's similar to a law that expires at the end of 2010 giving 85,000 lucky drivers of three specific hybrid models that privilege.

Come January, just a few thousand all-electric, natural-gas, and hydrogen vehicles will qualify for that access unless SB 535 passes.

That bill has taken "lots of twists and turns," says Jay Friedland of Plug-In America, an advocacy group that works to support and encourage plug-in vehicles. See, for instance, the strike-throughs in the amended version of SB 535.

2011 Chevrolet Volt

2011 Chevrolet Volt

Twists and turns

The California Air Resources Board has proposed amendments to the latest revision that enhance AT-PZEV eligibility for HOV lane access.  The original bill had required a threshold of 65 miles per gallon for eligibility, which Plug-In America supports.

The problem is that the EPA still hasn't decided how to rate the fuel economy of plug-in vehicles that have gasoline engines too, since their effective gas mileage depends entirely on how they're used.

Gas on freeways good, electricity bad ???

Even worse, Sexton notes, is a bizarre paradox created by the AT-PZEV requirement: A car that must use its engine on the freeway will get HOV-Lane access, while the Volt--which can run on battery power at highway speeds--will not.

So a Chevrolet Volt that does less than 40 miles a day may never burn a drop of gas, for instance, but will still be banned from the HOV lanes.

Whereas the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid that's being flogged down the freeway at 85 mph will consistently burn gasoline at its highest rate, and yet it will be able to do so from the HOV lane.

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Comments (28)
  1. that's sad

  2. I sincerely hope that the CA Gov't can get it's collective head out of it's ass on this one.

  3. I think somebody needs to stay away from the "medical" marijuana.

  4. Don't see how this is so hard. The Volt is a hybrid and it's not an electric car there for it isn't classed as an electric card. Seems pretty simple to me. It _can_ be driven in a similar fashion, but it's not guaranteed. Therefor it's not the same.

  5. Yet again, we see law-makers/politicians/the general public lag behind the curve in their own ignorance. The law's not keeping up with the growth of technology. It happened with the internet (draconian laws taking away civil liberties without people understanding), it's happening with copyright law, and now the same can be applied to these new, innovative cars. God bless America, where the politicians are all so old/old-fashioned that they only reject the new.

  6. Well lets write our reps in Sac and get this changed. Why are we going to screw GM when it is owned by us taxpayers. Lets help get the Volt the same privilages that Leaf and Prius owners will get.

  7. Well said Eddie, well said.

  8. Actually Andrew, the Volt is NOT a hybrid. The gasoline powered generator is not in the drive train. It exists, so that if the batteries are drained, you can run the generator to produce electricity. This is unlike hybrids that place the gas engine in the drive train to supply extra power during acceleration.

  9. Many diesel locomotives on the railroads produce electricity with their combustion engines. I wouldn't call these electric trains. I think hybrid is the correct designation for the Volt.

  10. @Buffallobill, @Andrew: The trains that Bill mentions are powered by electricity generated by the diesel engine, a configuration known as 'series hybrid'. They cannot run, however, without the combustion engine operating.
    The Volt, OTOH, has a 16-kWh battery pack that powers it electrically for up to 40 miles without the engine on. So, technically, it's an electric vehicle for the first 40 miles and a series hybid thereafter. This configuration is called "range-extended EV". See here: http://www.greencarreports.com/blog/1034474_why-is-the-2011-chevrolet-volt-not-a-hybrid

  11. Actually, the volt is the ONLY true hybrid out there, other than the very latest plug in Prius. Hybrid means dual power, all previous 'hybrid' cars were ONLY powered by gas, without gas to get them moving, they could not generate electricity from breaking and rolling downhill, none of THOSE cars should be allowed in the HOV while the Volt, Leav and plugin Prius' should be

  12. Easy solution for cars like the Volt and Prius - put a green LED "leaf" symbol or the like on the back of the car. When the car is running on pure electric power, the "leaf" turns on and the car gets all electric legal status. When the gas engine kicks in, the "leaf" is off and it's just another internal combustion engine car. It would also let the driver show off how they are helping the environment.

  13. That must be fun for CHIPS to to try and figure out which cars are allowed on HOV lanes

  14. the assertion that the plug in prius will get HOV access is false. the AT-PZEV category it falls under is the same as the existing prius, and honda hybrids. these cars are allowed in HOV lanes with the proper (yellow) stickers, but only 85,000 stickers were issued and that limit was reached years ago. and these stickers expire on 1/1/2011, with a pending bill to possibly extend to 7/1/2011.
    the only cars that qualify for new HOV (white) stickers are ZEV pure electrics and fuel cells, and CNG vehicles. of course, the law may very well change as the volt's release nears...

  15. Given California's budget mess, I'm surprised that people are getting rebates at all

  16. Sounds to me that the Government is trying to stall the sale of the American made cars, who’s getting the kickback from the foreign made cars being sold.
    Is this not the USA, buy from US companies...come-on!!
    People should get an incentive for buying from US companies!!!

  17. If a single occupant car gets an HOV sticker it would be nice if they also have to drive at the same speed as the flow of traffic.

  18. while we nitpick if its going to get HOV lane status.
    the rest of us will still get in our giant trucks and drive everywhere, never stopping to think about the difference between 9 MPG and 45MPG. so, ahhhh.... try to not forget its america everyone.

  19. If the State of CA bans the Volt from this HOV status, the Feds need to pull Federal money from them. And whoever is making the decisions that ban the Volt from this HOV status can take the whole State of CA and shove it.

  20. @FoolJoe: Actually, a new "subsection" of the AT-PZEV rules was created specifically to address plug-ins, called "enhanced" AT-PZEVs. Generally, anything 10 or more miles of EV range will qualify. Toyota is aiming at just reaching that minimum (technically, the Prius Plug-In Hybrid prototype has 13 miles of EV range). SB 535 seeks to give access to those "Enhanced AT-PZEV" vehicles, so unless it gets modified to return to its original form (which was, paraphrasing, "plug-in + 65 mpg), there's no reason to believe the Prius Plug-In Hybrid won't be granted single-occupant HOV Lane access.

  21. John, there’s also no reason to necessarily believe that 535 will pass.

  22. It is pathetic that the first practical EV for highway use does not get any rebates or access to HOV lanes, while a Prius with its engine running merrily away does. The Volt is the only hybrid with an electric motor powerful enough (149 hp) and batteries big enough (16 kWHr) to push it not only to freeway speeds on battery alone, but all the way to its top speed of 101 mph without using the engine at all. The Volt is a game changer, and California isn't doing it part to help save fossil fuels and reduce CO2 with this technology.

  23. Who cares, you buy this car to look at not to drive. Come on people a gas car with a giant laptop battery, you really thought this was going to matter to anyone?
    This is nothing more then a status symbol. Granted the symbol says your an idiot but who cares, you got the money to blow on a crappy car.
    Who cares about the tax credits, who cares about the HOV lane, if you really must by american (I never will), the buy the chevy cruise. Its a better performing car, with better real world gas miles, and it only cost 17k. then take the 30k and buy a wind turbine. You'll do a whole lot more for the environment.
    Oh yes, I said 30k, because you know the dealers will ad 10k to the price because they are a collectors item. so that is 52k less the 7500 from uncle same and your at 45k. After taxes your at 30k savings..
    The Chevy volt is just another american mistake like Obama.. But few of you will ever see that.. LOL.

  24. You're out of your mind. I have a Volt and I barely touch the gas in the tank. Fuel-wise it out-performs everything on the road, and I include the Leaf since that thing will die on you once the battery drains. I have a 50 mile per day commute and make that almost entirely on electric power, and that includes extensive freeway time. I can't recall the last time I hit a gas station. The price may be higher than the Cruise, but over time I'll make up that difference in gas savings and I'll be practically ZERO emissions for the life of that car.

  25. CA is a ridiculous state. Instead of supporting and applauding American ingenuity they penalized it. I pick up my Volt on Tuesday and will drive my under 40 mile round trip commute and my daughters to their under 40 mile practices 6 times a week and drive and pick them up from their school (again under 40 miles) on ALL ELECTRIC - but I won't do that in the HOV lane. How about showing a US manufacturing company that is trying to reinvent itself with the best -of -class product a little love, and me too while your at it!

  26. This is absolutely insane! I've had a Volt for 3 months now, and I drive 50 miles per day to and from work, on the freeway. And the ONLY reason I need to even use barely a drop of gas is to get over the Newhall Pass near Santa Clarita. The generator is barely on throughout that ride, which means I'm on the battery all morning and almost the entire evening. I've gone 3K miles and have only had to fill up 3 times (would have been less if not for a few unexpected side trips).

    NO Prius is gonna match that kind of performance. This is what's wrong with bureaucrats. The one REAL eco-friendly economical car on the road, and it's side-stepped by this ridiculous agency!

  27. Methinks that nutty California has found a way to force people to purchase asian hybrids, rather than the Volt, which is produced domestically. Only in California.

  28. @David: Actually, the rules for the qualifying AT-PZEV category are clearly spelled out, and GM chose not to devote the engineering effort to making the 2011 and 2012 Volt comply--unlike other makers.

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