BREAKING: California’s Green HOV Stickers Are About Gone


May 11th Update

May 11th Update

The California Air Resources Board, which sets the guidelines for the HOV decal program, reports that as of May 11 the California DMV had issued 68,992 green clean air vehicle decals. Consequently, only about 1,000 stickers remain before the total cap of 70,000 stickers is reached. While this is good to know, what does this mean to prospective buyers of plug-in hybrid vehicles? How long will it take before the decals run out again?

It's Likely This Is One Of The Only 2016 Chevrolet Volts That Will Have  A Green HOV Sticker On It - Image From West Coast Volt Reveal In January

This will be the only 2016 Chevrolet Volt with green HOV stickers on it (West Coast Volt reveal in January 2015)

According to a similar update issued on April 8, the California DMV issued 63,255 green stickers as of then. This means that the recent run rate was between 160 and 170 stickers per calendar day, which would imply that the cap could be reached in about a week. Unfortunately, the DMV has traditionally had a significant application backlog, which could easily exceed the remaining allocation.

Assembly Bill 2013 (AB-2013) directed the Air Resources Board and the DMV to make additional 15,000 green decals available on January 1, 2015. Unfortunately, a fairly large backlog had built up between September 23 and January 1. The DMV could not issue any decals during this time, since the program cap has been reached and not yet extended. Although the backlog has shrunk significantly, it has never been fully eliminated.

Looking at it another way, the volume of plug-in hybrids sold in the State between September and April would suggest that all of the remaining green HOV stickers have been spoken for. This is further corroborated by a Facebook comment from Catherine Sylvester. This prospective BWM i3 REx buyer recently contacted the Field Office in Sacramento, and has learned that the application backlog stretches as far back as mid April.

This means that new applications will have little chance to be processed before the total cap of 70,000 stickers is reached, and future 2016 Chevy Volt and other new PHEV buyers are likely out of luck. Thankfully, there might be still a few vehicles with pre-assigned green HOV decals left on dealer lots. As improbable as it might sound, this strategy is more likely to succeed than submitting a new application to the DMV at this stage.

And finally, it’s worth noting that the total cap will not be extended. This observation is based on the progression of AB-2013 through the California legislature last year. We are truly witnessing the swan song of this program. Those who wish to drive in the HOV lane might want to consider a pure electric vehicle or a used plug-in hybrid with green stickers on it.

Below you’ll find various graphics assembled by us that show California’s green HOV decal allotment, the state’s number of stickers issued each month and a breakdown of model-by-model PHEV sales in California.


Green HOV Sticker Count

Monthly sales volume of PHEVs nationwide and in California versus sticker counts

Number of stickers issued in a month versus PHEV sales that month

hov 2

Chart showing model-by-model PHEV sales in California

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59 Comments on "BREAKING: California’s Green HOV Stickers Are About Gone"

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What is the total # of PHEV’s in California? I’m just curious to see what percentage actually have green stickers.

These stats really illustrate how much California drives the national sales numbers. If the Green sticker drives California sales, I hope the end of the program doesn’t mean poorer overall sales – especially of the Volt, ELR and i3 which IMHO are the only ones that truly deserved the sticker given thier strong electric range.

Well, at least the PIP can finally die. It only existed to be bare minimum to meet these requirements.

I wonder if Toyota ended production of the current PiP, knowing that the green HOV stickers were about to run out, seriously crimping sales.

And it feels like a kick to the nuts too, that hydrogen & CNG cars get white stickers.

Seriously, i bet the well-to-wheels emissions of the Volt and Mirai are probably pretty comparable when you take into account the typical EV/Gas split in Volt operation, and the Mirai doesn’t have any “fast fuel” advantages over the Volt. These types of government incentives should exist to reward the environmental performance of these vehicles. The market will already reward any advantages in terms of customer convenience such as fast refuelling, etc.

The Mirai’s well-to-wheels CO2 emissions from steam methane reformed hydrogen are a little lower than the Volt’s when it’s charged on the US average grid mix, and about dead even on the California grid mix. If the Mirai uses hydrogen from biomass (bullsh!t) then it’s CO2 emissions are about one third of the Volt’s. If the Mirai uses hydrogen from electrolysis then it’s CO2 emissions are way more than the Volt’s.

I don’t think those account for bullsh!t to wheels. And what about all the EV’s that use solar? Solar & EVs go hand & hand.

It does account for cow to wheels CO2 emissions. It’s an Argonne National Labs well-to-wheels analysis.

Most EVs charge at night using the grid. The electricity generated during the day by solar panels gets put on the grid during the day, and reduces the daytime CO2 emissions of the grid. It would be DOUBLE COUNTING if both the grid and the solar panel owner, who charges off the grid at night, claimed the CO2-free electricity generated by the solar panels. If the solar panel owner claims the CO2 reduction, then the CO2 emissions from the grid would have to increase by an equal amount.

sven said:

“If the Mirai uses hydrogen from electrolysis then it’s CO2 emissions are way more than the Volt’s.”

Indeed. And, unfortunately, it seems that hydrogen from electrolysis is what the State of California is using for its hydrogen dispensing stations.

That is not true. You’re spreading FUD about hydrogen.

Currently 46% of the hydrogen dispensed from state-funded hydrogen stations comes from renewable sources. In the near future, under California law 67% of hydrogen for transportation must come renewable sources. California’s Air Resources Board (ARB) verifies the amount of hydrogen made renewable sources.

“California law [SB 1505] requires that 33% of hydrogen for transportation come from renewable sources. . . . SB 1505 calls for an additional 37% reduction in CO2 [to make hydrogen] by using more renewables. . . . In the annual evaluation of the hydrogen station network released last year, ARB found that the currently operational and funded hydrogen network’s renewable implementation is well within compliance with the SB 1505 standard, reaching 46% renewable after all currently-planned stations are built.”

Oops, I misread your response Lensman. Sorry about that. Scratch the first two sentences in my response.

Suffice it to say that in California the increasing renewable source requirements for hydrogen used in transportation will dramatically lower the carbon footprint of hydrogen made by electrolysis.

They should IMHO.

They are both inherently low emissions vehicles whose emissions don’t worsen over time.

That’s very valuable.

I doubt that is the reason. With the federal tax credit, the PiP is cheaper than the equivalent non-plug-in Prius 3, and it is a better car in every way that it is different. The PiP is a terrible electric car, but it is a fantastic hybrid.

On the other hand, owning a PiP makes most people want more electric range from their hybrid. Toyota can’t sell the PiP if they don’t want to commit to electric cars because once someone tries out driving on electricity, they are unlikely to want to switch back. Given that the PiP has no marginal cost to the buyer, Toyota either has to seriously limit the production of the PiP or be forced by customer demand to keep extending the electric range across all of its hybrids.

I wonder if CARB is going to revamp the green HOV sticker program so that more stickers will be be alloted, but under stricter requirements. So compliance plays like the PiP and its joke EV range can’t qualify for a sticker, while other PHEVs that can actually drive the speed limit under battery power only (current Volt, ’16 Volt, i3 REx, etc…) can qualify. PiPs (and even to a lesser extent, the Ford Energis) shouldn’t qualify for a green sticker, IMO.

Agreed – Especially the i3 Rex. Nobody is going to buy an I3 Rex and drive it every day on gasoline.

Since BMW can’t game CARB anymore with it’s i3 Rex, it should stop making the i3 Rex with crippling “green sticker inspired” software and make it like the European i3 Rex where the driver can chose when the Rex comes on, and the car can use the entire 2.4 gallons in the gas tank rather than a software limited 1.9 usable gallons.

The benefit to BMW from qualifying the REx for BEVx is not the sticker- that’s a benefit for consumers. The benefit to BMW is the additional ZEV credits they receive for selling the car as a BEVx. That will continue for a few more years.

Yep, you’re right.

The i3 Rex “gaming” has nothing to do with the sticker program. The Rex would have qualified for the green sticker even if it didn’t qualify for BEVx status. The i3 Rex never qualified for the white sticker and BEVx status does not allow them to do that either.

All BEVx status does is allow BMW to get ZEV credits equivalent to a BEV.

Oh well, I would have never wanted a hideously ugly sticker adorning my shiny car anyway.

I’m the same way. That’s why I put my green stickers on the magnetic “car signage” material. I can put them on and take them off at will. Can’t tell visually that they aren’t permanent affixed to the car.

Can someone explain this to a non-Californian? Which cars still get white stickers? Leaf, Tesla, 100% BEV, etc?

BEVs only


And hydrogen, as well as BEV. It also says CNG, but I believe that’s another sticker (blue), could be wrong.

CNG gets white decal too. No blue decals in CA.

100% electric

Somehow I still had faith that I will drive my 2016 Volt in the carpool lane. I have to reconsider my priorities now, whether it’s to drive a super cool electric car or spend more time with family and drive an older model.

And speaking of Priuses. If it were me, I’d just go and yank those green stickers right from them, because you know what, they never drive over 35 mph in the carpool lanes anyway. There is definitely a type of people that buy those cars, rarely charge them to get their 6 EV miles, and they definitely don’t deserve to be in the carpool lane.

… the model-by-model CA sales is the first time I have seen such data. Can we take it back to 2012 for start of PiP and Volt sales?

It looks like all the cars for the country broken down by model. Is that right?

Why isn’t GM lobbying inside CA to extend this program?

There should be no more green stickers unless the car has at least 16KWH of battery and/or gets at least 40 miles of EPA rated electric range.


Because carying 100% of the battery weight but use less than half of the capacity makes sense?

What PHEV uses less than half of their overall battery capacity?

Uh, they DON’T use less than 1/2 the capacity.


Chevy volts up to 2014 uses ~48% of the pack at any single drive full depletion, if your lucky.

Nope. 65%.

You’re math challenged. Even the initial 16 KWh battery used 10+ KWh of the fully charged battery.

Why would you want to use all of the battery capacity every day, and wear your battery pack out quickly?

Larger battery packs have at least three advantages:

1. Longer range

2l Longer life

3. Faster charging

Arguing that everyone should limit themselves to an EV with a small battery pack is even more silly than arguing that everyone should limit themselves to a car with only two seats, because the back seat is rarely used. That back seat doesn’t actually have any benefit for most people on most trips, whereas the larger battery pack is worthwhile every time you charge up the car.

The value of my 2014 Volt (with green sticker) just went up!


So did the PiP.


Qualifications of the stickers for PHEV’s need to be revamped.

Only PHEV’s that use 75% or more of the onboard primary traction battery should be qualified.

Anything less is DQ’d.

The tax rebates/incentives and state rebates/incentives should follow a percentage similar where the PHEV that uses the highest percentage of the onboard primary traction battery get’s the highest percentage of the rebate/incentive.
Start the useable percentage at 75%.

How about only PHEVs that can do at least 65mph on battery power alone can qualify for a green sticker? If you can’t do the speed limit, GTFO out of the HOV lane!

bro1999, I suggest, no strike that, ADVISE you to obey the law, or GET THE HECK OUT OF THE INTERSTATE, let alone the HOV lanes.

65MPH is the MAXIMUM limit of interstate (most) speed in CA, not the minimum. Thus, anyone driving at or below 65MPH, but at a safe speed (such as 55MPH), especially during traffic jam, can use the HOV lanes.

Better yet, the sticker program for plug-ins are NOT really for those PHEVs that can drive at high speed using battery; they are intended for those PHEVs that are actually USING THEIR BATTERIES @ HIGH SPEED! Thus, if you are using gasoline to drive your PHEVs in the HOV lane but with less than the minimum occupancy stated for that HOV section, those people should be ticketed, whether they have the green stickers or not.

If only those PHEVs have a light showing what type of fuel/power they are using for the cops to see (or cameras to take images if CHP implements such a system)…

Sorry @Londo but I am with @Bro on this one – I hope there is a special place in hell for Prius and LEAF drivers that decide that hypermile in the carpool lane or express lane during rush hour.

I can honestly say that i never use the carpool lane

and my stickers are peeling off the plastic, have to glue them back on every once in a while

so I am confused here, if you miss the stickers for this year, you cannot get one on Jan 1st? Ie., next years volts can get one but you are permanently shut out?

PS. I have a vehicle that runs on LEADED gas (yep, as in before the unleaded changeover), has no stickers, goes 130 miles an hour and NEVER encounters any traffic! If I see another vehicle 2 miles away I consider that to be a “high traffic” day!

Its an airplane.

This is will only add to PHEV dimming sales numbers the started to drop off beginning last September.

This has to be very sad news for the Chevy marketing team as the HOV stickers will be all gone … even before the Volt2 launches on the May long-weekend. The weekend that is traditionally the start of the American driving season.

#TomorrowLand will be stuck in the slow lane. :\

I bought a c-max a month ago and the dealer applied for the green hov sticker in early April. With only 1,000 left as of Monday and no sticker on my car yet, what are the chances I’ll get one? Is the DMV that backlogged?

Worried I might never get that sticker.

Whoa, Nellie! ARB just updated – or rather, downdated – their website. The revised total for May 11 is now 66,255 stickers, not the 68,992 previously posted. This is more in line with the rate since issuance resumed in January, and on pace to run out in late June.

CARB should limit the green stickers to cars with at least 15KWh Battery or larger. PHEV such as Prius, Cmax and Accord shouldn’t qualify for such benefits.