Last year, owners of conventional hybrids received a six-month extension of the privilege to drive solo in the carpool lanes. Prius-driving John Burton—the California Democratic Party chairman and former state Senate leader—is one of many hybrid drivers upset about losing the perk and asking for more time.
Enough is enough, according to Ford, Honda and advocates for the next wave of green automobiles that operate on grid-supplied electricity, natural gas and hydrogen.
On May 9, those carmakers sent a letter (PDF) to Mark DeSaulnier, chair of California’s senate transportation and housing committee. “It is… unfortunate that there is an effort underway yet again to extend the yellow sticker program, and that legislation to do so is being sought,” the letter states. “We do not support any further extensions of the yellow sticker program.”
The groups believe the incentive is effective in creating markets for vehicles with new advanced technologies—but believe regular hybrids benefited from the perk, and are no longer relevant to the incentive. The letter explains, “Continued extensions of the program do not serve to incentivize sales of hybrid vehicles as the cap on yellow stickers was reached approximately seven years ago, shortly after the program’s inception.” The letter complains that the extension to July 1 was granted “without any public airing of the issue during two years of debate over the future HOV program.”
Ford and Honda are neck-and-neck for the title of the second biggest seller of hybrid cars, behind Toyota. Both companies, as well as Toyota, Nissan, General Motors and others, plan to sell plug-in and alternative fuel cars, which are eligible for white stickers granting HOV access to solo EV driver, and green ones for those piloting a plug-in hybrid.
California Senator Leland Yee, the author of the bill that granted the extension to July 1, at the time 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. Those cars have arrived. The all-electric Nissan LEAF, as well as the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid expected in 2012, qualifies for stickers. The 2011 Chevy Volt is not currently eligible, but is expected to receive the necessary certification for the 2012 model.
The letter opposing another extension of hybrid HOV access was signed by officials from Honda, Ford, the California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition, Clean Energy Fuels, and Plug In America.