CA Prius Hybrid Owners to Lose Carpool Lane Privileges

We knew it was coming, but now it’s official:  The Department of Motor Vehicles announced Friday that it is mailing 85,000 letters to owners of hybrid vehicles, letting them know that their special rights to use carpool lanes ends June 30th.

The yellow decals for HOV lane access were originally intended to expire in 2009.  That date was extended to January 1, 2011, and then again to July 1, 2011.    But it looks like this time there will be no further reprieves.

If you drive a hybrid in a carpool lane on July 1st, you could get pulled over and given a pricey ticket.   That means that on July 1st, drivers of some 85,000 vehicles will be forced back into stop-and-go traffic lanes, and they aren’t going to be happy about it.
Carpool lanesFor those that simply can’t part with their HOV lane privileges, there are two options:

1) White clean air vehicle decals are available in unlimited numbers for vehicles with zero emissions.   The two main cars that qualify are the all-electric Nissan Leaf, and the compressed natural gas version of the Honda Civic.  And for those with $100K or so, the Tesla Roadster also qualifies.

2) Green clean air vehicle decals will be available starting January 1, 2012 for the first 40,000 who qualify.   These decals are intended for the next generation of hybrids, the so-called “plug-ins”, such as the Chevy Volt.  So far, the California Air Resources Board has not announced which vehicles will qualify for the new decals.

Unfortunately, the white decals will not be a practical solution for most drivers.   But there’s the likelihood that plugin “conversion kits” will allow existing hybrid owners to “upgrade” their vehicles so they meet the new standards and will qualify for the green decals.

Stay tuned… We’ll have more information when it becomes available.   Meanwhile, if you want to continue using the carpool lane, you might consider… carpooling.

-Gene Chamson