Yellow HOV Carpool Stickers Expire in CA

No Yellow HOV Stickers

Today marked the end of an era for some 85,000 Prius and other hybrid owners with yellow carpool stickers.   No longer will they be able to sail past traffic in the HOV lanes.

Starting tomorrow, July 1st, a vehicle with a yellow HOV sticker caught driving in a carpool lane can face a fine of nearly $400 if it doesn’t have the minimum number of occupants for that lane (typically 3 people).

The state program was successful in encouraging early adopters to buy cleaner emission vehicles like hybrids, in 2005, when it was first introduced.    The yellow stickers were so popular that an expanded 85,000 allotment was quickly reached by early 2007.

There are now hundreds of thousands of hybrids on the roads in California, yet those who were fortunate to get one of the yellow stickers before they ran out continued to enjoy the special HOV lane privilege.  The expiration of those stickers has been postponed several times, most recently from January 1st to July 1st of this year.

But clearly it was time for the yellow stickers to go.   Newer, cleaner technology cars have since come on the market, and because the yellow stickers ran out in February 2007, any car on the road that still has one would be at least 4 and a half years old.  Not exactly state-of-the-art.

That’s why the next phase of California’s Clean Vehicle Incentives program will issue HOV stickers to cleaner, more advanced technology vehicles.    White stickers have been available, and will continue to be issued for ZEV’s (zero emission vehicles), like the Nissan Leaf and other electric cars, as well as ILEV’s (inherently low emission vehicles) like the Honda Civic GX and other compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles.

And starting January 1, 2012, a new batch of green stickers will be issued for Enhanced AT PZEV’s (Enhanced Advanced technology, Partial Zero Emission Vehicles) which will cover the next generation of plug-in hybrids that run primarily on electric motors, but still have a gas engine on board for backup and range extension.

So far, only the limited distribution 2010 Toyota Prius plug-in has qualified for the green sticker, but the certification process is currently underway and other plug-ins are expected to qualify, including the 2012 model of the Chevy Volt  (the 2011 model will not qualify).   Only 40,000 of these new stickers will be issued, so you’ll have to act fast once they come on the market in early 2012, assuming the cars that qualify for them are available.   (There is currently a 6 month wait for the Nissan Leaf)

You can get an updated list of all the vehicles that qualify for the different HOV stickers here  .   Check this list periodically for new additions that will qualify for the green stickers

Wouldn’t it have made sense to delay the expiration of the yellow stickers until the new green stickers are available?    Many people say yes, but a last minute attempt to extend the life of the yellow stickers was not successful in the legislature.

Since there are no practical alternatives currently available that qualify for an HOV sticker between now and January 1, 2012, those 85,000 hybrid owners with yellow stickers might want to start practicing the lost art of carpooling.

Download a copy of the California Clean Vehicles Incentives Fact Sheet