Plug-in Hybrids and HOV Lanes: Déjà Don’t.


Ahh, one of my favorite California bills is back. No, not that one. The one that allows plug-in hybrids into CA HOV lanes with just one occupant.

The original allocation of 40,000 green stickers that indicate HOV eligibility for PHEVs has been exhausted. AB 2013 proposes to make 45,000 more stickers available immediately, and is currently headed to the CA Senate. All 85,000 PHEV stickers would still expire in 2019.

CARB’s “Green” Sticker Explained

CARB’s Original “Green” Sticker Program Explained

The bill’s proponents mean well. Problem is, without any meaningful EV range requirement, it remains the poorly-constructed law it always has been. Parameters for each incentive should be based on its intended goal: in this case, to encourage commuting on plug-in electric power. Stands to reason then, that eligible vehicles should be able to operate in electric mode at freeway speeds for the length of a standard roundtrip commute (~30 miles, give or take).

For the last couple years, the lanes have been open to any car with a plug, even those that are far more gas than electric. But it’s time to step up. If we’re going to allow more PHEVs into HOV lanes, we need to expect more from them.

I get the inclination to take the easy win toward selling a few more PHEVs, I really do. But in the grand scheme, it wasn’t much of a win nearly four years ago when this law was first passed, and it certainly isn’t now.

Your California State legislators may be found here. Assembly member Al Muratsuchi (sponsor of AB 2013) can be contacted here.

Editor’s Note: Our thanks to Chelsea Sexton for sharing this story with our readers.  We encourage readers to also check out Chelsea’s blog here.

Categories: General

Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply

38 Comments on "Plug-in Hybrids and HOV Lanes: Déjà Don’t."

newest oldest most voted

Since Toyota doesn’t seem to really care about plug-ins, then their PiP shouldn’t be allowed in the HOV lane with it’s minuscule EV range and only at slow speeds.


The program was intended to encourage clean air vehicle adoption (BEVs NGVs etc.) My co-worker bought a 2013 plug-in Prius and only gets about 6 miles of EV range, the rest of her day is burning gas. She does have the green stickers and uses them. I feel this is counter productive to changing the general public attitude toward zero emission vehicles. Kill these bills.

Here’s my two cents worth: If it burns any amount of fossil fuel, it has no business in the HOV lanes! If it is a true EV, then it should be permitted in the HOV regardless of the number of occupants. Why? The purpose of the HOV lane is to reduce green house gases by taking a car off the road and that driver riding with someone else. An EV quadruples that savings because NO green house gases are being produced.

Thanks for the article, Chelsea, couldn’t agree more. The green sticker should require a certain minimum amount of AER, certainly more than the pretty-much-worthless PIP.
If they really want to step up, then the Volt AER should be considered the minimum to qualify.

Neither EVs nor PHEVs should be allowed in HOV lanes unless they have multiple occupants.

California should be pushing carpools, living closer to work, or telecommuting.

California does encourage HOV lane use. Companys benefit from use of vanpools and employee carpools. As far as living closer to work… that’s a comment I hear often from friends who don’t live in CA. If you don’t you simply can’t understand the dynamics of what you suggest.

All that technology in CA yet telecommuting is not widespread? You’re right we don’t understand.

Actually telecommuting is widespread in California. We still have traffic issues.

Agree. Most people can’t live close to work because houses/apartments in those areas are crazy expensive. For example, you a very small, rundown 2 bed 1 bath house in Santa Monica will easily run you $1.5 million. And telecommuting is not a viable (or wise) option for most jobs. Yahoo recently stopped their telecommuting policy because they determined that most of these employees were not actually doing any work during their telecommuting work hours.

Why? The only society wide impact of driving alone is increased gas use and polution. Solve that problem and then the issue of driving on a parking lot every day is a personal choice.

We don’t need the government telling us how to live our lives.

What is more efficient a single occupant ev or a gas powered vehicle with 2 people in it?
Since ev’s are 3-5x more efficient than gas and similarly in regards to pollution depending on the electricity source your first argument is not valid. Though your proposal to push carpools and other forms of the less polluting activities,(not sure how you get people to live closer to work) are reasonable, it is a non-sequitor from your original comment. In other words unrelated.

Single occupant riders in hybrids using HOV lanes discourage carpooling and increase congestion in carpool lanes, impacting the fuel efficiency of those ICE carpool vehicles.

No, they don’t.

My commentt was responding to Taser54 btw.

I 100% agree. Either don’t pass this bill or modify it to require ev range of at least 30 miles an can go 65 meh under ev power.

And if that high principled stand is not enough . . . Then take into consideration that a particular auto maker is leaving California.

Does California provide any statistics about which percentage of cars received green stickers? The biggest green sticker injustice is clearly the PiP. If the PiP alone was knocked out of contention for the green sticker, I would be fine with more stickers.

Chelsea’s line at 30 miles AER is no to PiP, Fusion Energi, and CMAX Energi but yes to Volt, Mitsubishi Outlander, and ELR. Seems reasonable.

But I wouldn’t mind higher.

And i3 REx.

This bill sucks. Only 40 miles on EV power and above should be eligable. Volt and i3 Rex.

Well 40 would eliminate the Volt. How about 35?

35 sounds good since I have a Volt. 🙂

I’m guessing that evRav4 must have a Volt too… it seems easy to forget the official AER on the Volt when you have one because it easily achieves 40+ miles AER, even when the drive involves sustained 70+mph legs in the HOV lane.

Funny how everyone wants to draw the line just BELOW what their car does. We always love to point the finger at everyone else and say they are not good enough but “we” are.

Either PHEVs are in or they are out. Stop playing the “mine is better than yours” game.

I have a Volt, and I think it should be set to 50 miles of AER. That would force GM (and others) to kick it up to 50.

37 miles sounds good, but the EPA ratings are not achievable in winter, or hills, or at fast speeds, or whatever. Basicially, we need more AER.

How about just HWY speed capable PHEV?

That would elminate Prius for good….

I think it is wrong for EV drivers (including myself) to think that PHEVs are bad. While plug-in Prius is not my thing, it is still a huge, big, giant improvement over the SUVs and full size trucks that fill up our highways. Please never not forget that.

So if green HOV stickers are the wrong incentive for PHEVs, what is the appropriate thing to do?

For instance, should California eliminate DMV fees for plug-in vehicles?

Clarification … what I mean by “think that PHEVs are bad” are “think that PHEVs do not deserve rewards/encouragements like EVs get”

The answer is that ALL ev subsides should be eliminated and replaced by simply removing sales tax on these vehicles. At CA sales tax rates thats about $2500, the same as the rebate, except that it is instant at time of sale and would thus dramatically reduce the cost to CA government by eliminating the rebate bureaucracy.

Meh. That subsidizes the rich more than the poor. (A Model S gets a huge discount and an iMiEV gets a meager one.)

The problem is that people can buy a PiP, get a sticker, and then never plug it into an outlet.

So where does one draw the line for which cars are acceptable to use in in the HOV lane? I can certainly see why the PiP should not qualify in its current state. But what about the Ford Energi products?

Here’s something I DO think would be beneficial about increasing the requirement. Lets say the requirement was the Plug-in car have 20 miles of range.. You can bet the next version of the PiP would have at least that much to satisfy that requirement.

PHEVs contribute from zero to minimal reduction in gas use and pollution (zero being folks who buy one then never plug it in).

What we have is a defacto limit on stickers for these cars. Seems like the system works to me, why change it.

Ridiculous statement to make. My Volt has 36,000 miles on it and that is with less then 100 gallons of gas so it has effectively used NO GAS for 32,000 of those MILEs!

In Murica, everything that isn’t a SUV or Pick-Up truck can be counted as relative clean vehicle.

And while they’re banning the PiP, they should also ban any single occupany vehicle that gets less 100mpg-e from using the HOV lane.

Sorry Tesla, sorry 1%ers, no white sticker for you.

Time for Tesla to get busy improving the efficiency of the Model S.

You must think it is easy (or even possible) to “increase the efficiency” of a vehicle that uses a 60 kWh battery. It is not. With increased range, comes increased weight. With increased weight comes loss of efficiency compared to economy cars. As you hopefully know, Tesla uses aluminum extensively within the body, frame and components of the Tesla in order to be as efficient as possible. It is also, as reviewed by Car & Driver, the most aerodynamic vehicle on the road.

What you don’t understand is that there is only so much that can be done when carrying a huge battery. And while the Model S is “inefficient” as compared to other EVs, it is extraordinarily efficient as compared to any gas or hybrid vehicle of its size.

Mrs. Sexton’s message is that this has to do with how many cars it takes to fill an HOV lane. PHEVs are becoming more popular. HOV lanes are useless, when they slow to the pace of non-HOV. Allowing vehicles to use them lanes is already a matter of definition, that government and society haters will always criticize. A useful tool to control green sticker saturation would seem to be ratcheting up the requirements, predictably, over time. It can be occupants, range, or anything else the residents of California chose to make it.