Colorado Starts Hybrid HOV Access, Arizona Stops

Hybrid drivers in Colorado will soon be able to drive solo in carpool lanes. The state will issue 2,000 special permits through a lottery system. Applications are being accepted through May 31, 2008.

All hybrid vehicles will be eligible in Colorado. Critics argue that the incentive should not be awarded to larger hybrids that offer little or no fuel economy benefits compared with small conventional cars. The number of permits to use High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes may increase after Colorado’s transportation department determines if the extra vehicles have any adverse impact on highway traffic flow.

The use of carpool lanes for solo-driving hybrid owners continues to be debated across the country. Arizona, after issuing 10,000 HOV tags for hybrid vehicles since early last year, is halting the program for any new applicants until the impact can be assessed. California discontinued the perk in 2007, after issuing 85,000 stickers. Only high-mpg hybrids—such as the Toyota Prius, Honda Civic Hybrid, and Honda Insight—were granted permits in Arizona and California.

Access to HOV lanes access is an appealing perk to car buyers considering a hybrid—but skyrocketing gas prices are expected to have a much greater impact on hybrid sales.

We will continue to report on the latest developments regarding hybrid HOV lane access.


  • Peter

    I agree that only high mpg cars should be allowed in the HOV lane, although I do think that that idea is also skewed since the HOV lanes are meant to be an incentive to reduce congestion.

    I just hope I get one of the permits (selfish yes, but 65 mpg is much more of a reason than 25 mpg)

  • Andy

    I think rewards should be tied with results rather than trying to micromanage the system. If anything, give the benefit to anything above a certain mpg, not whether it uses a specific technology to do so. Consider the fact that motorcycles can >already< use car pool lanes (fair.) And consider that an electric car with an effective mpg of over 100 still doesn't qualify for lane access without a ton of lobbying - small car companies need not apply (unfair.) Homebuilt electrics don't qualify either (unfair.)

    If the lanes get too crowded, just keep bumping up the mpg cutoff. Forget this lottery stuff that only rewards people for getting lucky. How silly. And those who bought early in the high mileage privilege don’t deserve this reward in perpetuity along with everyone who ever buys that car through its lifetime.

    My argument does end up favoring the superrich who can afford super high efficiency vehicles like a Tesla. I’m not sure how much sense that makes. Thoughts? But that is one way to motivate those that otherwise already have everything to get their money flowing into the development of such technologies.. which can then work their way down to affordable cars over time.

  • Justin

    Totally agree with Andy. Keeping a tight control on the minimum MPG qualification for HOV lanes would be a great motivator for the car companies to continue innovation.

  • mdensch

    I own a hybrid but still don’t think any of this is a good idea.

    The point of diamond lanes is to encourage car pooling which brings benefits besides fuel efficiency, namely reducing congestion both on the freeways and in urban centers where traffic and parking are problematic. I think we should keep public policy focused on the core issues.

    BTW, do the math on this one: A Chevy Tahoe hybrid carrying six people uses less fuel per passenger mile than a Prius carrying just the driver.

  • Need2Change

    Four years ago in DC when the economics of hybrids was questionable, allowing hybrids on Northern Virginia HOVs was a great incentive to buy hybrids. It worked.

    Now it makes economic sense to buy hybrids.

    So I think HOV lanes should be used to carry multiple passengers, rather than be an incentive to have a hybrid.

    If the goal is for more people to buy hybrids, then those who currently own hybrids should not be eligible for HOV. Only those buying after June 1 should be eligible for the lottery.

    In addition, I would set a mileage standard, rather than type of engine. A all electric and 40 mpg diesel should be eligible. A 31 mpg Escape, 22 mpg SUV hybrid, or Lexus hybrid should not be eligible.

  • JackT

    This makes absolutely NO sense. In theory it sounds like a decent idea. The point of HOV lanes is to address congestion issues. If HOV lanes become available only to hybrids, then you’re no longer addressing the congestion issue, you’re merely giving incentive to those that own a hybrid. Thus, you’re throwing folks that own an SUV that might stock it full of 5 passengers for carpooling and making them sit in regular traffic. The effect: non-fuel efficient carpool vehicles that are burning more fuel (read: polluting the air) by sitting in stop-and-go traffic, rather than spending as little run time possible on the roads. DUMB!

  • RandalH

    I agree with those that say that it makes no sense. An SUV carrying three passengers is more fuel efficient than a hybrid with one passenger. In fact, it’s counterintuitive from an efficiency standpoint because hybrids get excellent gas mileage in stop and go situations, and therefore it would make more sense to have the hybrids in the congested lanes and let non-hybrid high-occupancy cars keep moving in the HOV lane.

  • Steve Alexander

    I completely, completely agree with RandalH about hybrids being in the bumper2bumper traffic and non-hybrids taking the HOV lane

  • grand canyon helicopter tours

    Even as hybrids become more popular, though, automakers say gas- electric engines are a transitional technology that will eventually be replaced by hydrogen-powered fuel cells. However, the nation is at least a decade or two away from that, as the infrastructure needed to pump up with hydrogen is virtually nonexistent.

  • BobbyBob

    Yes, that will really incentivize careless citizens to purchase more fuel efficient vehicles.

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