CA: Electric Cars Get Carpool-Lane Access Til 2020, Plug-In Hybrids Til 2018?

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Carpool ad, 1940s: U.S. Office for Emergency Management, War Production Board

Carpool ad, 1940s: U.S. Office for Emergency Management, War Production Board

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Owners of electric cars and plug-in hybrids enjoy plenty of benefits: tax breaks, lower fuel costs, and the satisfaction that comes from driving a low- or zero-emission vehicle, to name a few. 

In California, owners also enjoy easier commutes: they can apply for special stickers that allow them to travel in carpool lanes, even when a driver is alone in the vehicle. Cars that qualify as clean-air vehicles, like electrics and those that run on hydrogen fuel cells, receive white stickers, while plug-in hybrids get green ones. 

The program has been hugely successful, but it's set to expire on January 1, 2015. According to the Los Angeles Times, a bill to extend the program has just passed the California Assembly by a comfortable margin (49-22), and it's now en route to the Senate. 

The new bill would extend carpool-lane access for clean-air vehicles -- including those powered by compressed natural gas -- until the year 2020. Plug-in hybrids would receive the benefit until 2018.

Clearly, that limit is meant to encourage the purchase of zero-emissions cars like the Nissan Leaf. The number of white stickers available for such cars is unlimited, while the total number of green stickers is capped at 40,000.

To date, California has doled out 10,831 of the green stickers and of the 23,220 white. While that may sound impressive, it's a tiny, tiny percentage of the 28 million vehicles currently roaming California's roadways.

If Senators feel the same way about the bill as their colleagues in the Assembly, the bill should have an easy time when it comes up for a vote. We'll keep you posted on its progress. 

In the meantime, if you live in California and are considering the purchase of a new, eco-friendly vehicle, you'll find a list of those that qualify for stickers here.


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Comments (13)
  1. I think the $2,500/$1,500 matters to buyer more on average than the white/green stickers...

  2. I know buyers who didn't/haven't applied for the white/green HOV stickers. I don't know anyone who didn't apply for the $2,500/$1,500 ASAP...

  3. In the bay area, those stickers save us close to 30 minutes during rush hour. I hope they get this extended!

  4. i knew people who bought hybrids just to get the HOV-2 exemption.
    I'm sure there are people who will buy Plug ins just to get that also.

  5. Spending $30k to get a HOV sticker is silly to me.

    It is easier to sign up for rideshare and get a commute buddy...

  6. Says the guy with the short commute. I save 30 min to an hour everyday using the HOV lanes. Spending $30k might be silly for HOV access, but what amount isn't silly? I was in the market for a Prius. I paid about $4000 more for the Plug-in version over a base model Prius. (I actually paid about the same if compared to a similar trim level three Prius because of the rebates) If there were no HOV stickers, I would've pocketed the money.

    Have you ever carpooled? I have. You get up earlier in the morning at the meet up place and wait. Then you all have to leave at the same time. If one person is late, you are all late. Easy to do? Sure. Easy to live with? No way.

    I do agree that the $4000 probably matter more to the average buyer.

  7. By your reasoning, then I will be firmly against CA promoting HOV access through the "green car initiative".

    HOV access is about carpooling and reduction in traffic congestion and pollution.

    By driving a plugin, you are reducing pollution, but NOT congestion. So, that defeats the purpose.

    NOT to mention that PIP doesn't give the EV range for your entire commute.

    So, CARB should eliminate any plugin's HOV access and give it ONLY to BEVs....

  8. Hi Xia,

    Sometimes your reasoning gets off the bus...this is one of those occassions. Your assumption of one the purposes of the carpool stickers in CA given to drivers of plug in vehicles who want them is incorrect.

    The purpose of the sticker is as an incentive to drivers of these plug in vehicles to embrace these new technologies that dramatically reduce vehicle emissions. These new plug in vehicles are, as a result, being embraced in great numbers in CA n helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, fossil fuel usage, and pollution overall. Reducing congestion is not a factor. If you think otherwise, cite your source.

  9. This is outstanding for CA. Hopefully other states, including Washington, are paying attention. Driving and electric car in the carpool lane... way cool, particularly in looking at traffic in the Seattle area. Time is now.

  10. If we look at the humble beginnings of the automobile all over the planet and how crude those vehicle were and with little or zero mechanical or supply support these 30,000 vehicles is amazing progress in California, the land of cars. The Leaf is selling well and Tesla is the darling of the stock market place today. My 2008 Mercury Mariner Hybrid is now ancient technology and that was five short years ago! The news from Hong Kong as to electric taxis is inspiring. Taxis! Electric! I am moving up to a plug-in hybrid as soon as I can afford one!

  11. Do the math could probably afford a plug in now when you include your fuel costs, maintenance, etc. over a five year or longer term...what many people buying cars are keeping these better made cars for nowadays. This is assuming your commute is not short.

    2014 Volt just had $5K taken off price. Include the rebates, tax credits, HOV access, and the even lower then invoice price you can get at some dealers if you call around and a Volt...or many other plug in vehicles look like sound financial decisions. We have a few years of excellent reliability history now with the Leaf, Volt, n PIP so u can't go wrong with a new one of those. Test drive them n all others to see which fits u best. Of course the Tesla Model S is superb!

  12. This is great news! But for converted battery electric cars that are zero emissions, there is still more work to be done!

  13. To the author n GCR,

    I know this article is from a few months ago but I hope my comment gets to the author n editors of this site asap.

    Your title of this article is completely false! It is a statement rather then relaying the hopeful possible law as the title suggests has been passed yet! You are lying to try to get more eyeballs! Tell the truth, always!

    All you had to do is simply place a question mark at the end of the title and your title would have merit. Now it is just BS. I strongly suggest you amend the title ASAP n refrain from such lies in the future.

    Oh and the swap riding poster from the 40s is completely unapplicable to this topic too. There is no mention of actually carpooling. Do better in the future

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