California Lawmakers Approve HOV Access Extension For Plug-in Cars

Is it fair that California plug-in hybrid and electric car drivers may travel solo in the High Occupancy Vehicle Lanes?

Some say yes, some no, but a bill just approved – and yet pending the governor’s signature – says it should be allowable through to 2019.

More specifically, this week the California State Legislature in Sacramento voted affirmatively on a bill allowing plug-in car owners to get a green HOV access sticker entitling them to privileges also allowable with no sticker to motorcycles and multi-passenger vehicles.

The initiative has been encouraged by those with environmental concerns and dovetails with the call to cleaner air and more electrified vehicles by the California Air Resources Board.

Advocates say cleaner air will result from vehicles that on average emit 34-percent fewer greenhouse gases, and create 75-percent less smog,

The carrot-and-stick measure also helps overcome a consumer cost barrier. Although plug-in cars are potentially eligible for varying federal and state subsidies, estimates put their prices at $10,000 over regular hybrids.

“California has always been leading the way when it comes to lowering our carbon footprint,” said Assm. Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica). “These standards will entice Californians to utilize the most environmentally friendly vehicles.”

But not so fast say some.

Critics point to slower than initially projected sales of the new breed of green cars despite the sticker perk and note the California Motor Vehicle department as of July 2013 has issued fewer than 16,000 green stickers since January 2012.

“I think most people out there would love to be able to get home from work in a timely fashion. That was the original intent, was to reduce congestion, encourage people to carpool, and then they can spend more time with their families,” said Assm. Tim Donnelly (R-Twin Peaks).

This conservative view says “high occupancy vehicle” lanes should be for just that – high occupancy vehicles (not to mention motorcycles), and indeed critics point to ostensibly selfish behaviors, or so appears the implicit allegation.

When regular hybrids were once issued yellow HOV lane stickers, California was warned by the federal government that the HOV lanes were being over-filled with Prius drivers and what not, and federal transportation funds were threatened.

The new legislation now has provisions to let adjustments be made if a case for egregious behaviors can again be made, and at this point the bill must undergo one procedural vote before Gov. Brown gets to approve the new green and white stickers.

“We do, in fact, leave some wiggle room with the Department of Transportation to kind of let them look at how do we moderate the use of these particular stickers,” said state Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco).


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