California Hybrid Drivers Have Just Hours Left to Enjoy HOV Access Perk

California hybrid owners who registered for stickers allowing them single-occupancy HOV access are enjoying their final hours of the perk today, with this evening’s commute presenting perhaps the final opportunity for Prius drivers in the state to leave their gas-loving peers in the dust during high-traffic periods.

According to the DMV, after July 1, hybrids with the now ubiquitous yellow HOV sticker “will no longer be allowed to operate in an HOV/carpool lane unless the minimum passenger requirements are met. This expiration date will not be extended.”

Taking the place of gas-electrics in the carpool lane will be fully electric, plug-in hybrid, and compressed natural gas cars. Last August, the California senate passed a bill granting a six-month extension of the perk to July 1, 2011, saying at the time that extension would give California hybrid owners time to purchase the next generation of electric cars and plug-in hybrids coming to the market.

Those cars have arrived. The all-electric Nissan LEAF (which began deliveries to California drivers last December,) and the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid (expected in 2012,) both qualify for stickers. The 2011 Chevy Volt is not currently eligible, but is expected to receive the necessary certification for the 2012 model.

California first introduced its hybrid HOV law in 2004, allowing as many as 85,000 gas-electric drivers to qualify for a yellow sticker granting them the special privilege. Within a few years, the allotted stickers were gone—new hybrid buyers in the state have been unable to obtain one since early 2007—and California hybrid sales had rocketed to more than 90,000 per year.

But the effectiveness of the program was never clear. Though it saw the rise of hybrids in California and likely helped to raise awareness of the technology, the primary driver for fuel efficient vehicles among consumers has always been cost—both the price of fuel and the additional premium that drivers can expect to pay for cars offering superior fuel economy.

Regardless of the effect of the sticker on boosting hybrid adoption, it can be seen as a positive sign that California’s hybrid market is likely poised to hit record levels in the coming years, as automakers work to meet rising state and federal fuel economy standards, and satisfy heightened consumer demand for fuel-sippers.

As for early hybrid adopters, the good news is that they can re-obtain their carpool supremacy by becoming among the first to purchase a plug-in electric vehicle. That prospect may not be enough to make plug-ins as commonplace in California as hybrids have become, but it certainly can’t hurt either.

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  • D Croslin

    What has more pollution 2 zero-emiission single-occupancy hybirds or a 2 people in a full size van. Way to take your eye off the ball and kill the planet california.

  • JJJSpawn

    I disagree with this overall. There are not enough options out there to force this option, but California is always looking for the next thing. This will also force consumers to push on manufacturer to come out with something that they can drive on HOV. Not sure how the Volt doesn’t qualify but that is up to someone else.

  • Brandon

    I will not invest in a new vehicle and if I did it would NEVER have anything to do with gas again. Someday (probably too late) companies will learn to turn their back on gas and go fully into something substantial for the consumer like a biodiesel/electric hybrid and not gas.
    In 1976 america had gas lines, then again tremendous price increases from 2004 and continuing into 2011 and only more increases expected.
    The government demands those gas taxes and you are penalized if you can get around paying them. With electric, you have solar charging and with biodiesel, you can have many sources corn, soy, palm oil, etc and you can make it yourself, especially if you have your own place in the country.
    Biodiesel is cleaner and safer for the world, not to mention electric…I really do hope car companies will stop being controlled by washington, dc and the gas companies.
    The companies have already turned their back on biodiesel and stick with gas….so unfortunate for the consumers and the environment and the world.

  • John K.

    All I want is a Compress Natural Gas (CNG) plug-in Prius hybrid! Super clean, won’t cost a ton of cash, pure electric for around town, and best of all — doesn’t require ANY new technology.

    Toyota, please produce this! (If not, Ford, please offer a version of your Fusion w/these features.)

  • MovingForward

    Slow down there turbo. Biodiesel is not cleaner than gasoline. I puts out more Nitrous oxides than gasoline or regular diesel. Don’t blame companies for ‘turning their backs,’ you have turned yours for the same reasons, it’s more expensive. Yes you can make it in your back yard and why don’t people? Because it’s not practical. Why not go electric? What would that do? Almost all electricity in the US is made by coal, nuclear, or Natural Gas. Ever charged a battery before, they get warm. All that heat is lost energy. Energy is lost in charging, using, transmitting, and even producing electricity. When its all said and done, your electric car consumes close or more fuel depending on what you drive. Just ask yourself what is even wrong with gasoline?

  • tapra1

    California hybrid owners time to purchase the next generation of electric cars and plug-in hybrids coming to the market.jjwyy

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