Chevrolet announced today at the Los Angeles Auto Show that its Volt extended-range electric car will qualify for solo access to California's HOV lanes, a feature deeply desired by many of the state's car buyers.

A 'Low Emissions Package' will be fitted as standard equipment to all Volts sold in the Golden State starting "early next year."

Owners of Volts fitted with the Low Emissions Package can apply for one of 40,000 stickers designating the car as a California Enhanced Advanced-Technology Partial Zero-Emissions Vehicle, or E-AT-PZEV.

That designation, and the sticker that denotes it, are required to drive alone in California's HOV lanes during the hours they're active.

The package also qualifies Volt buyers to apply for up to $1,500 in California Clean-Vehicle Rebates. That's an additional incentive beyond the Federal $7,500 income-tax credit for buying an electric car, and any other state, regional, or corporate incentives for purchase of a plug-in car.

Tesla Roadster with CA Clean Air Vehicle sticker -- flickr user jurvetson

Tesla Roadster with CA Clean Air Vehicle sticker -- flickr user jurvetson

To make the Volt qualify for E-AT-PZEV designation, GM engineers had to add a secondary air-injection pump to add air into the exhaust stream. The increase in oxygen improves the efficiency of the catalytic converter in removing pollutants from the Volt's exhaust stream.

More than 1,400 miles of HOV lanes are woven throughout California's most congested freeways. For several years, 85,000 owners of three specific hybrid-electric vehicles were eligible to drive solo in those lanes.

Those permits expired July 1, however, and now the privilege is being transferred to plug-in cars. The Nissan Leaf battery electric vehicle has qualified for the sticker since it went on sale, as does the upcoming 2012 Mitsubishi 'i' electric car.


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