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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