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

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

CA HOV Carpool Lane Decal Update

If you have a carpool hybrid in CA with yellow HOV decals, the days of your carpool lane privileges are running out.   In case you haven’t been paying attention, recently passed law SB 535 has given you a reprieve by extending the expiration date from January 1st until July 1, 2011.

If you want to keep driving in the carpool lanes after July 1st, you have two options:  1) Buy a zero-emission vehicle, like the new electric Nissan Leaf or the natural gas-powered Honda Civic GX, which will qualify for white HOV decals. Or 2) Purchase one of the new plug-in hybrids coming onto the market next year, including the Chevy Volt.  These will qualify for a new carpool sticker especially for plug-in hybrids.   These new decals will not be available until January 1, 2012 and will be be limited to 40,000 vehicles.

While the yellow decals expire July 1, 2011, the next generation of carpool stickers will be good until January 1, 2015.
If you have any questions about the new law and how it effects you, or would like assistance in getting your next carpool hybrid, please contact Gene Chamson at or call (510) 339-3646.

Next Page »