California Senate Gives HOV Access to Plug-in Hybrids, Extends Hybrids for 6 Months

The California Senate yesterday voted 28-3 to pass a bill to would extend the use of carpool lanes for solo hybrid drivers through June 30, 2011. The legislation, SB 535, would also provide HOV access to solo drivers of plug-in hybrids under the state’s Enhanced Advanced Technology Zero Emissions Vehicle (EAT-PZEV) designation. SB 535 now goes to the governor, who will have 12 days to sign or veto it.

Clean Air HOV Access Sticker

Unless the governor signs SB 535, solo drivers of conventional hybrids will be denied access beginning Jan. 1, 2011. California issued yellow carpool lane access stickers to 85,000 hybrids between 2004 and 2007.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Assembly Bill 1500 in early July, providing the solo carpool lane perk to owners of pure electric vehicles and cars running on compressed natural gas until Jan. 1, 2015. AB1500 did not extend the privilege to hybrids.

The Zero Emission Vehicles are white and the current hybrid stickers are yellow. The California Department of Motor Vehicles is considering the use of green stickers for the Enhanced AT-PZEVs.

Limit of 40,000, No Access for Volt For Now

California Senator Leland Yee, the author of SB 535, said the goal of extending hybrid HOV access for an additional six months is to give California hybrid owners time to purchase the electric cars and plug-in hybrids coming to the market. The all-electric Nissan LEAF and the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid go on sale later this year. However, the 2011 model year Chevy Volt will not be certified as an Enhanced AT-PZEV and will therefore not qualify for the HOV perk. The Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid, expected in 2012, has been certified as an Enhanced AT-PZEV, and will therefore qualify for solo HOV access.

Nonetheless, General Motors sponsored SB 353, and it was backed by Toyota, Chrysler and Palo Alto-based electric carmaker Tesla. The Chevy Volt is expected to earn the EAT-PZEV status for the 2013 model.

Some legislators opposed the bill, saying that HOV lane access should be strictly preserved to carpools, regardless of the desire to encourage adoption of green car technology. To alleviate concerns about highway congestion from solo green car drivers, SB 353 places a cap of 40,000 on the number of Enhanced AT-PZEV plug-in hybrids that will receive HOV stickers. There is currently no limit set for the number of all-electric, or Zero Emission Vehicles, that can receive white HOV access stickers.

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  • JamesDavis

    Try reading that article half sauced out of your mind on vodka. I am sure that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegge will do the right thing for California…he has so far. The rest of America would be much better off it they followed the governors lead……… except with their budget.

  • justme2727

    So if the Volt is not an Enhanced AT-PZEV, and all-electrics like the Nissan Leaf are exempt from the 40,000 vehicle cap, what exactly does the cap apply to!? The 2012 plug-in Prius, and the 2013 Volt? So basically no cars will really be counted under that cap for quite some time, right?

    Was thinking I’d have to rush out and buy something now to make sure I get a sticker, but it sounds like that’s not the case!

  • thomasr

    I do not get why the Volt does not get HOV sticker access? But I am sure glad the current stickers will get extended. I think this is a great program and maybe I should run out and get a Civic Hybrid with HOV stickers before word gets out and prices on these vehicles go back up!

  • Autogeared

    Well, really happy to read this article, I have bookmarked your website and will turn back to read your new articles.

  • LEAFguy

    If the intent of the original bill (AB1500) is to encourage green vehicles, then it seems reasonable to extend the hybrid lane access for six more months. The Nissan LEAF will be available in California in December, but in extremely limited quantities. In six months time, those interested in converting from hybrid to fully electric will have had time to evaluate the LEAF, and purchase one should it meet their needs.

    For more on the LEAF, please check out

  • Anonymous

    Its crazy to let you guys have 6 more months. My CNG Honda Civic GX have far fewer emissions and much better “gas” mileage than your Prius. I have 2 GXs and found the recent gulf oil spill to be a much bigger tragedy than you all did, since I’m oil free (except when I fly, which is rare).

    I have never gotten a great answer why Prius owners should have gotten the HOV stickers if Geo storm (better gas mileage, even considering your hybrid system) drivers didn’t.

  • craig

    How do you the oil companies get cng ….out of thin air .Do your homeworkbefore you stand on your high horse.

  • Thomas Klein

    Sounds like you guys are all having a big GREEN pissing match to me, I’m Greener because I drive a Prius, NO, I’m greener because I drive a CNG car. It’s become a religion.

    I say ban ALL cars from the HOV lanes and make it Busses only, that would give us an instant, extensive , network to get around the southland, even at rush hour. Leave your car in the garage for the weekend.

  • Anonymous

    Regarding above:
    @Craig: Actually, the vast majority of CNG is this country is produced in the US. BP wasn’t drilling for methane with the deep water horizon, there is plenty of readily avail natural gas in the US.

    @Thomas: No pissing match, its not even close. Everyone out of the HOV lanes except carpools, CNG and electric (dedicated electric, that is). Buses are CNG so of course let them in.