Last week, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) announced that the cap for green solo-access High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) stickers for plug-in hybrids had been reached.
In a posting to its official website, CARB issued a statement saying that all of the allotted 85,000 green HOV stickers had been disbursed, and that future applications received would be placed into a waiting queue in the event legislation authorizing more stickers to be issued is approved.
“IMPORTANT NOTICE: The 85,000 statutory Green Clean Air Vehicle Decal limit has been reached. The DMV will continue to accept applications without payment to establish a queue for requesters should an additional amount of decals be authorized. There is no guarantee that additional decals will be authorized in the coming months. Those individuals in the queue will be notified to submit payment if additional decals are approved. Updates will be provided here as more information becomes available.”
Plug-in hybrids (PHEV) such as the Chevy Volt, BMW i3 REx, and Ford Fusion and C-Max Energi are eligible for the green HOV sticker, lucrative to drivers in California as they can cut commute times significantly during rush hour on congested freeways.
Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) such as the Tesla Model S and Nissan Leaf are eligible for the white HOV sticker, which has no allotment restrictions. The green and white stickers, both set to expire on Jan. 1 2019, allow single occupant vehicles to travel in carpool lanes normally reserved for vehicles carrying two or more people.
A recent study by UCLA’s Luskin Center for Innovation concluded that 40 percent of electric vehicles purchased in California from 2010 to 2013 were influenced by HOV-lane access incentives.
If new legislation is not approved, predicting the precise effect of the lack of green HOV sticker availability on PHEV sales moving forward is difficult. However, manufacturers have in the past placed particular importance on ensuring their vehicles are eligible for such incentives.
In Feb. 2012, Chevrolet announced mid-cycle tweaks to the emissions system of the 2012 Chevy Volt that made it eligible for California purchase incentives as well as the much-coveted HOV-lane stickers.
Prior to officially going on sale in the U.S. in 2014, BMW propositioned CARB to allow the range-extended (REx) version of the BMW i3 to be eligible for white HOV sticker. The automaker went so far as to seek a new “BEVx” designation category for its i3 REx, which it succeeded in doing, though the REx version ended up being eligible for only the green HOV sticker.
Potential buyers of PHEVs in California that had been making their purchase contingent on receiving the green HOV stickers may now be forced to reconsider their options if new legislation for raising the current cap is not announced.