Virginia Hybrid Car HOV Perk Is Tied to Police Budget

Last week, Virginia passed yet another extension of its hybrid HOV law, which gives drivers of “clean fuel” vehicles access to the commonwealth’s carpool lanes. The law has been extended annually since its original expiration date in 2006—even as the state’s HOV lanes (and hybrid sales) swell. Could the extensions have anything to do with the fact that, with every registration for access, $15 goes to the state police’s “HOV Enforcement Fund?”

Since the emergence of hybrids in the last decade, several states have enacted similar carpool laws as an added incentive for consumers to embrace gas-electric vehicles. But with fuel prices high and hybrids no longer the newest fuel-saving technology on the block, the argument for keeping around added hybrid driver perks has weakened.

This June, California hybrid drivers will lose their HOV access—a bonus that has been available to 85,000 such vehicles since 2004. But with hybrids all but ubiquitous in many parts of the state, California decided last year to shift the privilege to drivers of plug-in electric vehicles, and push solo hybrid drivers out of HOV lanes. Virginia has long ranked among the top ten states for hybrid sales, which would likely make it among the first to end its HOV incentives—except that it isn’t.

Are Virginia Cops Hooked on Hybrids?

In order to be eligible for full HOV access, a Virginia hybrid must sport the state’s special Clean Fuel Vehicle (CFV) license plate, which is available for an additional $25 fee on top of the annual registration cost. Of that money, $15 goes to the state police’s “HOV Enforcement Fund,” which was established alongside the CFV law to help troopers identify and ticket HOV violators.

When Virginia first began granting solo hybrid HOV access, the state police issued a report (PDF) requesting a $300,000 annual enforcement budget—up from $140,000 the year before. Today, with more than 66,000 hybrids on Virginia roadways, the state income generated by CFV registration fees is adding up. Though information on exactly how many such tags are circulating isn’t readily available, if all 66,000 hybrids were to register each year, the state police budget could rake in more than $900,000 annually from the program.

Hybrid HOV drivers use tags to verify their access, rather than leaving it up to the police to spot the difference between a living passenger and say, an inflatable doll. It begs the question: Howt many additional enforcement dollars are required to keep them honest? But with state budgets tight, raising the additional funds necessary to neutralize the impact of losing that registration fee could be tough—which may explain why Virginia continues to kick the can down the road on the program.

For now, new hybrid owners in the commonwealth can continue to register their cars for CFV designation until June 30, 2011. All hybrids are scheduled to lose access exactly one year from that date—though given recent history, don’t be all that surprised if yet another extension finds its way into law before expiration hits.

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  • Anonymous

    Police is planning to phase out this Crown Victoria with another car.
    3 choices are
    Ford Taurus : 3.6 Liter V6
    Chevy Caprice : V8 with very powerful engine
    Dodge Charge : V8 with very somewhat powerful engine

    Earlier they favored Chevy, now with gas prices so high, they should move towards Taurus.

    When cabbies can move, police should also do, its good for themselves and the country.

  • Charles

    According to the EPA from a MPG standpoint the Crown Victoria has higher MPG than the V8 Dodge Charger (19 to 15). The turbo Taurus is only one MPG better than the Crown Victoria.

    Buying cars suited to specific tasks would make more sense. A 23 MPG 300+ HP V6 Mustang is fast enough to catch almost anything on the road. The V6 Mustang if faster than any of the three cars listed by Anonymous. That would be my choice for traffic petrol. I do not think that too many detectives have high speed chases. They could go with a Ford Fusion Hybrid and save a lot of fuel. Transporting criminals could be done in a non-turbo Taurus.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, I think I read there are Lamb. used as police cars (actually donated by the factory). But Mustang as police patrol car, are you serious? Furthermore, I doubt it will get 31 MPG as advertised.

  • Charles

    Yes, I am serious about Mustangs as patrol cars. At least Indiana and Maine use them today. Why do you doubt the 31 MPG? CR got 35 highway. I doubt it would get 31 as a patrol car, but I doubt a Prius would get its EPA 50 as a patrol car.

  • Anonymous

    In case some are not aware of it: CR also got 55 MPG during highway testing, I think.

    Even if a Prius does not reach its EPA mileage as a patrol car, wouldn’t it still be rough;y 50% higher than a Mustang?

    At the end of the day, I still see little chance of Prius being used as police patrol cars, in significant numbers.

  • osama

    this is a piece of crap

  • Charles

    Anonymous, you are correct CR did get 55 MPG highway for the Prius. There are two big differences between the Prius and the Mustang that make the Mustang a possible patrol car. First the V6 Mustang is very fast. Second it has a trunk.

  • Penois

    This article is completely misleading. The cutoff date to register your hybrid for use in the I-66 HOV lanes is June 30, 2011. That’s THIS year, not next. True, people who already have hybrids or purchase and register one by that date will be allowed to keep driving them in the HOV lanes for at least another year, but the incentive for everyone else disappears on July 1 of this year.

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  • Jin Micro

    These guys should consider the price of gas nowadays! Settle for something that meets the budget. 🙂
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  • Lindy

    Using hybrid cars for the Police department? Seriously? I think its just a big waste of budget, plus, common we all know hybrid cars is not as reliable as petroleum cars. Think about the response time and reliability of these cars. Police doesn’t need to travel miles and miles just to be on a scene. diese nachrichten heute.

  • effective tax rate

    Hi Admin. great read i enjoy your post. Im a fan of hybrid car but unfortunately, i can’t afford to have one, Maybe in the future. Cheers!