Are Nissan LEAFs Clogging California’s HOV Lanes By Driving Too Slow?


Nissan LEAFs Gets HOV Access In California

Nissan LEAFs Gets HOV Access In California

It’s been brought to our attention that some of California’s HOV lanes are becoming clogged.

Nissan LEAF With White Sticker

Nissan LEAF With White Sticker

As Mr. Roadshow of the San Jose Mercury News states:

“I now field the most complaints about the Nissan LEAF for clogging up carpool lanes.”

The problem, it seems, is that some Nissan LEAF drivers maintain speeds of 50 MPH while using “the FasTrak lanes at 237-880.”

If this is the case, then clearly it will become problematic.

I believe (though openly admit that I had difficulty confirming) that the speed limit in that area is 65 MPH.  Driving 15 MPH under the limit, unless there’s traffic, will surely lead to Mr. Roadshow receiving more questions like this one:

Q: Why do Nissan Leaf drivers insist on going 50 mph when using the the FasTrak lanes at 237-880? Pick it up, boys and girls.”

Do you drive under the speed limit in HOV lanes?  Is it actually true that Nissan LEAFs are “clogging up” carpool lanes?  If you reside in this area of California, then you hope you chime in with what you observe in Comments below.

Source: San Jose Mercury News

Categories: Nissan


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55 Comments on "Are Nissan LEAFs Clogging California’s HOV Lanes By Driving Too Slow?"

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I will chime for GA. I drive at 55 MPH in Atlanta and if someone needs to pass they can. Or you can get pulled over in GA since most Police Officers do not know about Alternative Fuel Plates. Look at the video:

+1 Just wonderful!

Is 55mph the speed limit in GA?

It is 55 MPH in the city itself. so HOV has to be 55 MPH. No one drives at that speed of course. But at times I need the max capacity out of my battery.

Sorry but why would you get in the left-most lane, even if it’s an HOV lane, since you’re not passing anyone?? I find it utterly frustrating that in most of CA no one observers the “stay right except to pass” sign which is white, therefore it’s the law. Problem is, it’s not enforced, so nobody cares… then we wonder why there’s so much traffic.

I’m sorry, but I’ve never seen that sign before. Where are they in CA?

They’re all over but again not enforced. Example:

I usually travel at 70 mph in my Leaf, as long as I know home or an available QC is within comfortable range. I’ve been told by Tony Williams that 63 mph may be the best compromise for those us concerned about range – not.slow enough to attract antipathy, but more efficient than slightly higher speeds.

Chiming in for the LA area. I regularly drive 70mph in the carpool lane, because you’re expected to keep up with traffic. If I’m low on charge (rarely), then I’ll creep in the truck lane. I’ve seen other leaf drivers do the same, never seen a turtle in the carpool lane. It’s just common courtesy.

Although, considering the number of slow drivers in the left lane, I wonder if Mr. Roadshow’s audience is simply griping about the slow drivers being Leaf owners, and not that there are inconsiderate slow drivers out there in general?

I concur on your L.A. area assessment. EV drivers are about as well-behaved as anyone else in any of the lanes, from my observation. Nobody wants to get shot.

Only problem I’ve seen are single drivers in ICE vehicles. One phenomemna I’ve noticed are single ICE drivers cutting into the HOV lane in front of me when I drive my Focus electric; this almost never happens in the Volt. Unlike my green-stickered Volt, the white-stickered Focus Electric does not have a front bumper decal (DMV doesn’t provide one), and the FFE probably isn’t instantly recognizable as an EV, at least when compared to a LEAF.

yeah, I do 70 in the carpool lane but if I see a Tesla (or any other car) fast approaching from the rear, I’ll pull over to the right and let them pass.

And if I’m gonna go slow, I won’t use the carpool lane . . . having a stick means I can use it, not that I have to use it.

Wished everyone was as well behaved as Spec9.

The article is correct – hybrid and BEV’s are a real pain in the butt especially at 237-880. The official speed limit is 65mph. When it is not rush hour, traffic flow is 70-80mph.

Some people like me (I own a Leaf) get upset because those routes are usually used by folks with long commutes. You’ll be in the HOV lane and find yourself in a long train of cars chugging slowly. The leader of the train will always be a Hybrid or BEV plodding slowly. They will REFUSE to move off for faster traffic.

Being foreign, I can say this too. Most of the time, these idiotic drivers are foreigners, usually from countries where they lacked the opportunity to drive (India, China), so they are inexperienced, lack situational awareness and road courtesy. I guess they are also trying hard to save gas/electricity.

The complain about speed sounds like one person upset at one other, on one occurrence, and not indicative at all of a general trend at all.
I for sure haven’t noticed anything like that, ever, at least not on nearby highways (85, 17, 280, 101).

That said, there are indeed lots of plugins on the carpool lane now, maybe 5 or 10% at times? And the Leaf is certainly noticeable.
I suspect that this is what sparked other comments about them “clogging up” the lanes, which are so busy at certain times that they’re not moving much faster than the rest of the traffic, if at all.

Maybe a touch of jealousy too? 🙂

Gary Richards has been running Roadshow for the Murky News since the early 1990s – I remember from when I lived out there. He runs an excellent column, one I wish that other cities’ newspapers could learn from. He plays it objectively and spends a lot of time with traffic engineers getting the facts before reporting.

With all that experience he also has a nose for when he’s being astroturfed – as when a local political talk show host will have his or her listeners write into Roadshow en masse about some gripe or other. Given the way he’s written this up – noting that he’s not been able to confirm it – I think he considers this complaint at least a little suspect and is asking for general feedback from his readers.

I drive the 405 Carpool lane in Orange County for 10 miles every day. I can say that there have been *multiple* occasions where I end up behind a Leaf driver that is driving the speed limit – at best. I’m sure there are multiple reasons for this i.e hyper-miling, efficiency, etc. I get all the reasons, and completely appreciate them. I will pass them at 84 miles per hour every chance I get in my Focus EV, because my commute is short enough to not warrant any of those concerns. “Leaves” are easy to pick on because they sell so many more of them, but I have passed Tesla’s doing the same thing, not to mention countless ICE vehicles. This happens, but it isn’t fair to blame Leaf drivers exclusively. Not everyone wants to speed, no matter what they are driving.

I don’t think you should get in the HOV lane unless you are ready to keep up with the traffic flow.
If you are in a regular left lane most states have laws that say you must move over to the right even if you are doing above the speed limit if someone is coming up faster from behind. Some say you should be in left only to pass. Only a very few do any other and you can look it up with a google search.

If everyone in California drove 50 mph, they would save more CO2 than all the EVs on the planet combined.


I totally agree with your great comment about CA drivers saving more CO2 than all the EVs by driving at 50mph.
I drive my EV 60mph (the speed limit) on Washington State roads and I’m constantly tailgated/passed and glared at by Washingtonians who think its their god-given right to speed and waste gas.

ps: I’m working on getting the USPS to convert its 140,000 ICE delivery truck fleet, which would save at least 1.36 billion pounds of CO2 per year!


If people drove 50 MPH on a California freeway they would probably cause an accident, since the speed limit is 65 and the average speed is 70. We have already suffered through this type of misguided judgmental thinking with Jimmy Carter and his 55 MPH speed limit. It accomplished nothing and was regularly ignored by 85% of CA drivers.

The higher CAFE ratings, electrification of vehicles and increased number of hybrids are doing way more to save energy and reduce pollution than reducing speed. When pickups and SUVs become EREVs and semis become hybrids, it will make a huge difference.

Take it light, no need veer off in the ‘judgemental thinking’ and ‘politics’ all that heavy stuff. It was just a scientific observation that is most likely true.

And he did say “if *everyone* in California drove 50 mph”, so that takes care of your fear of accidents.

The 55 mph limit was put in place by President Nixon, not Carter. A common misconception encouraged by certainly political groups.

The 55 mph limit was found to produce a fuel savings of only 1%, basically because only a small portion of drive time is on freeways at top speed.

The difference in energy consumption from 50 to 65 MPH in a LEAF is 4.6 to 3.6 miles/kW. I can understand WHY they’re driving so slowly, but that’s just dangerous.

I drive 85 to 101 in the HOV, and no I don’t, and no I haven’t seen anyone in a leaf drive that slow.

I suspect that the truth is that Leafs just bother the hybrid drivers.

I drive 101 regularly in Silicon Valley and the EVs are not driving slow by what I’ve seen. I’ve seen EVs driving slow but they don’t do it in the fast lane.

In Illinois they have a minimum speed limit on interstates as well as the maximum. If this truly is an issue, they may have to do that in CA if they don’t already have it.

I’ve driven slow at times on the freeway in the left lane, just because I know it is going to slow down again. No point driving 100mph just to stop again in a few miles. Some drivers get irked by this. I think it is just smart.

Well why not pull over to the slower lane? That’s great that you want to drive slower but don’t force it on everyone else.

^^ +1 Spec9

Depends on your definition of “slow”. The times that I go in the carpool lane, I usually go at least the speed limit because I don’t want to get pulled over since the minimum fine for “anything” in the carpool lane will hit you with at least a $271 fine. I will slow down a little bit if the normal lanes are real slow since I don’t know if some yahoo will cut me off.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

So _you’re_ the fellow I blow past on the right, then cut off with a yard to spare in my Volt?

I’m going to agree with you. Can’t tell you how many times I have had drivers race past me (doesn’t seem to matter much what lane I am in) when I am going 30 MPH and the cars 50-100 yards in front of us are going 10 MPH or less. You don’t have to be a physicist to figure out that is the time to slow down, not to speed up. One guy was in such a hurry in the lane to the left that he didn’t bother to notice that the cars in front of him were basically stopped. He put on his brakes too late and rear-ended the car in front of him.

PS Guess which of us got home first?

The one thing that bothers me with all of this is using the term “Speed Limit”. I drive 85 6 to 10 times a day from 17 to 101 near Cottle road. It amazes me how fast people drive on that road. non rush hour traffic is 85+ in lane 1(HOV) and 65 in lane 3. Even in rush hour traffic there are drivers that are trying to do 85 when traffic in the non HOV lanes is moving slow. I ride a motorcycle 99% of the time and I just don’t understand everyone’s need to drive so fast on a rather heavily traveled and narrow road(3 lanes total). Remember folks the speed LIMIT is 65. You may not like it but that is the law. I truly wish the law was enforced on occasion.

85 is the highway number??? I thought that was the speed limit there….

(PS. old Silicon valley joke)

It’s easy to blame the fugly car, because they’re memorable…

On a more serious side issue… Now that more folks are interested in range maximizing by lowering their excessive speed– how many lives have been saved?

I look forward to the day when Leaf driver’s have enough battery capacity so they don’t need to worry about depleting their traction battery and can illegally keep up with the speeders in the HOV lanes.

+1 on that.
Hurry up with the 48kwh unit Carlos.

Oh Ps did Carlos find a heat tolerant chemistry yet?

Just a note: I have driven SLOW in the HOV lane on my Harley, but that is a case of the traffic still moving slower. The point is, that there occasionally are idiots will suddenly veer into the HOV lane out of frustration, and so the last thing I need is to have a car cut me off and go down at 70 MPH. That being said, in those cases I was still going faster than the traffic jam.

So I”m wondering if this isn’t a case of a Leaf doing 50 when the jammed up traffic was going 30? Maybe they’ve seen the same type of thing.

Luckily/unluckily, I drive the Santa Monica freeway… 65?!?! What universe am I in that I can even go that fast most of the time (except in small stretches) on that freeway?

Same with the 110 through downtown. On a good day, I’m at 20.

Even though I have a Leaf, I can’t wait for the Expo line to finish so that I can just completely stop driving.

The Expo Line at Culver is awesome… Santa Monica will love it! Well, maybe not the rail traveling influx of lower class tourists and street criminals… But local traffic should improve a lot!

So… it’s not just the public chargers that are congested! In any case, I wouldn’t be surprised to see all of these HOV benefits end a bit sooner than what’s currently expected and on the books. Whether it’s average Americans having to subsidize very rich people buying $100,000 cars, or some people getting carpool lane preferred treatment, this will all come to an end.

A side note: the plan for the comuter lane on the 85 freeway is to turn it into a high speed/limited access lane. It will get double lines, and there will be a limited number of places that you can enter or exit the lane. It will use fast trak (radio frequency tracking) to allow solo drivers to use the lane on a charge basis. And yes, current EVs will be grandfathered into the system, at least for the foreseeable future.

Welcome to LA.

I drive slow to piss people off.
No matter what they do, i’m always ahead of them……lol

i’ve never seen a leaf go fast

The word “Leaf” is sometimes used to refer to a vehicle, not just plants parts.
I know it’s confusing. You’ll understand when you grow up.

Way to fight back io.
I love that little Leaf.

Give me a break. The HOV lane on 85 regularly does 75, sometimes 80 miles an hour. I have no problem keeping up with it in my leaf, and haven’t noticed any particular problems with range.

Having said that, I don’t LIKE to do it, and often leave the lane when they do that. Diamond lanes do not make speeders immune from tickets.

Now that you mention it, there are plenty of obnoxious Telsa drivers on that freeway, who seem to believe their car is wasted unless they are racing. Just yesterday, I saw a Tesla pass a bus in the diamond lane by using the next right lane. Not normally a problem, but it was done at the threshold to the left-hand “flyover” lane, which has an embankment there. He just barely made it.

I passed a Tesla going the speed limit in the HOV lane on the way in this morning. The driver makes the decisions, not the car.

If you have to do 50 to keep enough range to do your commute, then your LEAF isn’t a good fit for your commute. Having said that, I fully intent to try road tripping in my LEAF, and that entails going 55mph between L2s to reduce recharging time and thus optimize total-trip overall speed. It’s sad that I’ll have to do that. We need more QCs, damnit.

How about something radical,

Change the HOV lanes to EV lanes, that should save a few tons of CO2 !

Went to lunch on my electric assist bicycle the other day. A gentleman struck up a conversation, and told me he was sad to sell his Model A Ford, which he had lovingly restored. He couldn’t enjoy driving it. Even on secondary roads, wild and abusive drivers threatened him for going 40 mph.

We have gone insane as a culture. We haven’t gotten any more important, since the days of the Model T, and the 2CV. I think sometimes we are afraid to slow down, because we would find out just how unimportant we really are.

Here’s my data point:

I drive the 880 south from the MacArthur Maze to the Dumbarton bridge and over to 101 everyday for work (~43 miles one way) in my Leaf. I’m usually driving a bit early in the morning (~6 AM) to avoid traffic, but I always get stuck in traffic northbound in the afternoon (~4:30 PM). I set cruise to 70-75 mph, which is the average in the HOV lane, and I can maintain this reasonably well during the morning. Average speed in the afternoon between the 880 and 237 is 35-40 mph in the HOV (everything to the right is way slower). I’ve seen Leafs on the road, but I’ve never seen so many that they’re ‘clogging’ the HOV lane by sheer volume or by slow speed. That section of 880-237 has been consistently full of traffic during rush hour for as long as I’ve been commuting (2 years now), so I’m skeptical of the claims.

I don’t live in CA, but nearly always drive my Leaf at the speed limit. Nobody should be trapping other drivers behind them in the HOV lanes, unless they’re actually going the speed limit.

Remember – the fastest car is always at the back of the line.

They have a similar issue in Norway… but the reason is not slow-driving electric cars owners: it’s just that in Norway there are “TOO MANY” electric cars, so there is more traffic in HOV lanes than in standard lanes! 🙂

1 word RANGE

Not slow, everyone else just drives too darn fast and they whine when they are slowed down by a guy going 75 MPH in the carpool lane, EV or not they just look for excuses. However it is dangerous driving slower than the rest of the traffic flow so go with the flow or out of the way. heck you’d probably get a ticket just keeping up to other’s speed in the carpool lane. So i tend to avoid it.