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Ford and GM Lobbying for Hybrid Inclusion in HOV Lanes

Bloomberg. Ford and GM want the federal government to force New York and California to let solo drivers of their hybrid vehicles join those of Honda and Toyota cars in highway High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) carpool lanes.

Ford and GM said they want two US agencies to enforce a law enacted last August that opens High Occupancy Vehicle lanes in the two states to their sport utility vehicles that run on gasoline and electricity. New York and California open lanes only to solo drivers hybrids that get at least 45 miles per gallon in gas mileage. By definition, that means only certain hybrids currently available only from Toyota and Honda.

“We believe we’re being unfairly treated,” said Jerry Roussel, manager of energy, environment and safety in Ford’s Washington office. “It’s discriminating, we think, against a US manufacturer like Ford, which we believe has implemented state-of-the-art technology.”

The August law, included in a $286.5 billion highway-spending legislation, would open state HOV-hybrid programs to vehicles that get 50% better highway mileage, or 25% better city-highway mileage combined, than identical gasoline-powered models. Ford and GM’s vehicles would meet the federal standard.

Comments

Bud Johns

Ok, Ford has a case for the Escape Hybrid, as true a hybrid as the Toyota way. GM? Just because they slap a hybrid badge on a car doesn't make it one. They should be ashamed.

Engineer-Poet

The hybrid Escape only gets 33 MPG highway.  My Passat gets 40+.

joseph padula

IF it is state of the art, why has Toyota had it for 8 years now? Why doesn't it get the mileage required? Why doesn't it burn CNG, Propane, E-85? Are the GM cars even SULEV? NO!
The Ford is a PZEV-AT so they at least have a case. GM is another story.
Any GM EV-1 should be allowed in the HOV lane! Oh right, they Crushed them all. What would a EV-1 with a small engine be? A serial plug in hybrid more advanced than anything the Japanese have. But they crushed them all. They should not get anything for what they did to us by throwing away a 10 year advantage.
Joe

joseph padula

IF it is state of the art, why has Toyota had it for 8 years now? Why doesn't it get the mileage required? Why doesn't it burn CNG, Propane, E-85? Are the GM cars even SULEV? NO!
The Ford is a PZEV-AT so they at least have a case. GM is another story.
Any GM EV-1 should be allowed in the HOV lane! Oh right, they Crushed them all. What would a EV-1 with a small engine be? A serial plug in hybrid more advanced than anything the Japanese have. But they crushed them all. They should not get anything for what they did to us by throwing away a 10 year advantage.
Joe

t

If Ford and GM don't like it, sell a hybrid that gets 45 plus per gallon. I think this whole hybrid preferential stuff is nonsense anyway and I own a Prius. Reward mileage, not the technology.

stomv

Seriously, in the words of a spoof Sean Connery on Saturday Night Live's Celebraty Jeopardy:

Suck it, Trebek

Yeah, its discriminatory. So what? The point of the lane is to encourage behavior that results in less consumption of fuel, not to encourage people to buy hybrid automobiles. Personally, I think they should open up HOV lanes to any vehicle that gets 45 MPG+, regardless of technology.

Joseph Willemssen

Seems like another PR move to undercut Toyota and Honda's hybrids. Ford and GM already have a LONG list of vehicles which can go solo in California HOV lanes - just no hybrids.

http://www.arb.ca.gov/msprog/carpool/carpool.htm

The Transportation Equity Act (H.R. 3) last year defined the terms of HOV lane exceptions, including HOT lanes (with no expiration on that provision), motorcycles, transit, and what they call "inherently low-emission vehicles" and "other low emission and energy-efficient vehicles", which they define. The former is defined in Title 40, section 88.311-93 of the Federal code, the latter defined in the legislation as meeting Tier 2 and getting at least 45 mpg, or an "alternative fuel vehicle".

Ford and GM's hybrids don't seem to meet the standards.

Joseph Willemssen

The point of the lane is to encourage behavior that results in less consumption of fuel

Actually, the point of HOV lanes has always been about lowering emissions, so that's why earlier vehicles that get high mileage don't pass the standard they set in H.R. 3 (ie, meeting Tier 2 emissions standards, in addition to getting at least 45 mpg).

Lou Grinzo

Isn't it interesting how much big companies hate gov't intervention in the sacred "free market" until, you know, they want something. Then they're just fine with bellying up to the trough.

As at least one person mentioned above, the HOV lane should only include high MPG vehicles (and actual car pools, of course).

Bryan Walton

The point of the lane is to encourage behavior that results in less consumption of fuel

Actually, the point of HOV lanes has always been about lowering emissions

Umm, doesn't HOV stand for High Occupancy Vehicle? I thought the purpose of HOV lanes initially was to lessen gridlock by encouraging carpooling and thereby have fewer cars on the road. Seems to me that HOV lanes should still be limited to vehicles carrying more than the driver.

Joseph Willemssen

Umm, doesn't HOV stand for High Occupancy Vehicle?

Yes.

I thought the purpose of HOV lanes initially was to lessen gridlock by encouraging carpooling and thereby have fewer cars on the road.

The point was lower emissions to improve air quality.

Seems to me that HOV lanes should still be limited to vehicles carrying more than the driver.

I tend to agree with you, but the Feds and state governments have underfunded things which would encourage more transit and shared vehicle use, which then led to underutilization of HOV lanes. They then use the underutilization as rationale for HOT lane exemptions (ie, paying to use the lane as a SOV).

If you read the text of H.R.3, the low emission exemptions terminate in 2009, whereas the HOT lane exemptions don't terminate at all. It's a way of backing in a distasteful policy under the guise of doing something beneficial (incenting lower emission vehicles).

What's really bad about it is that you see endless articles about people supposedly being pissed at hybrid users being able to use the diamond lanes as SOVs, and no mention of the fact that people are paying their way into the lanes as well. The articles also push a lie that all hybrids can use the lane, whereas in truth only 45 mpg+ hybrids meeting Tier 2 standards are eligible.

Sid Hoffman

Hybrids and alternative fuel vehicles should NEVER be allowed in the carpool lanes. It's called a CARPOOL lane in many states, as opposed to HOV because the point is to improve traffic flow by reducing the number of vehicles on the road. Even though a hybrid might use less fuel than a non-hybrid, it's not helping traffic congestion at all to have a single-occupant hybrid in the CARPOOL lane. Ban them all!! No single-occupant vehicles in the CARPOOL lanes!

Joseph Willemssen

the point is to improve traffic flow by reducing the number of vehicles on the road

Right - but the reason that was a goal is that the ultimate point was to reduce emissions. Again, you may not agree with it, but that's why those lanes were established in the first place - to improve air quality.

Andrey

The very existence of HOV lane indicates that there is a bottleneck somewhere down the road. Better to spend money to unlock it, not to arguing who is eligible to “back door passage”.

odograph

sid, that's fine as a statement of philosophy.

but as a practical matter you can put a certain number of cars in HOV lanes without affecting the speed of carpoolers. doesn't traffic flow well until it hits some critical volume? that's my experience.

and of course when the main traffic lanes are stop and go few people have the guts (bad sense) to fly right by them at 75 mph. to many cheats sneak out over the double lines.

so anyway, i don't see a problem with opening them up for other "social good" auto types, up until they near critical capacity.

(i hope Ford and GM get plenty of bad publicity out of this. it is obvious that they don't make hybrids that meet the efficiency rules, and that is their own darn fault.)

NBK-Boston

Joseph:

I do not think that you can state that the one and only reason the carpool lanes were build and are maintained is emissions reduction.

Putting fewer cars on the road does acheive that result, but it also acheives independent congestion-reduction and urban planning results. Encouraging carpooling, for one thing, allows more commuters to enter downtown districts using fewer lanes of highway, saving the money (and local impacts) of having to build more. As a second matter, it reduces the congestion load on the local streets *within* the downtown district, speeding traffic flows, reducing the need for off-street parking, and allowing for denser or more flexible land uses.

These points were well illustrated in New York City in the months after September 11, and also during the recent transit strikes. Lower Manhattan crossings were restricted to 3+ persons per car. During the transit strikes especially, rules were set in place to require high-occupancy ridership on local streets in Manhattan as well. None of this had anything to do with emissions. It was all about the congestion-reducing effects of carpooling.

Similarly, I an told that in Singapore there are 3+ person HOV limits on many downtown roads, and the explicit justification is congestion, not emissions. Furthermore, London enacted their city-center surcharge to discourage automobile use. Congestion was far more of a concern than pollution, as the popular name of that program indicates (the "congestion surchage," etc.).

By reducing the number of cars on the road, carpool lanes save gas and reduce emissions. But reducing the number of cars on the road can serve ends, such as congestion reduction, which are entirely distinct from the pollution-reduction ends. As the examples I've found illustrate, this is not a hypothetical, minor, "side-effect" sort of advantage, but a primary motivating concern of city traffic engineers around the world.

Joseph Willemssen

I do not think that you can state that the one and only reason the carpool lanes were build and are maintained is emissions reduction.

No, Im saying that the original intent for them was air quality improvement. Of course there are other benefits, and obviously their role has evolved with time, but the original purpose was to help with air quality by reducing the number of vehicles on the road. Federal funding provisions from the Clean Air Act of 1990 and ISTEA also helped shape them as air quality compliance tools.

As the examples I've found illustrate, this is not a hypothetical, minor, "side-effect" sort of advantage, but a primary motivating concern of city traffic engineers around the world.

I'm not denying the benefits of sharing rides, I'm just saying that in the US those lanes were established for air quality purposes, and that metric for access continues to this day.

I'm well aware of the benefits of sharing rides, if you follow this link to a publication from 1994.

http://ntl.bts.gov/DOCS/271.html

Rafael Seidl

Air quality authorities in states covered by California regs (CA, NY, VT, MA, ME) are charged with reducing immissions, some of which are emitted by cars. California opened up the HOV lanes to hybrid owners to encourage adoption of the technology, which they now consider the key stepping stone toward fuel cell vehicles (since EVs failed in the marketplace). This focus on hybridization as a low-emissions strategy is at the heart of GM and Ford's legal argument.

Personally, I believe the US currently has a far more serious problem with fuel economy - regardless of the regulatory situation. Therefore, I agree with those who ar calling for HOVs to be opened up only to single-occupant vehicles that get 45+ MPG.

stomv

Joseph Willemssen:

This is kind of a hollow argument because the introduction (and maintainance) of an HOV lane in any particular area could be for
* emissions reduction
* fuel consumption reduction
* traffic congestion reduction
* something else?!

My recollection was that HOV was one way to reduce fuel consumption during the gas crises, but perhaps that's cloudy history. Got any links pointing to some literature about the first HOV lanes and the discussions surrounding them?

Joseph Willemssen

This is kind of a hollow argument because the introduction (and maintainance) of an HOV lane in any particular area could be for emissions reduction, fuel consumption reduction, traffic congestion reduction, or something else?!

I keep trying to explain this, but I'm not saying that I personally like it, or support SOVs in HOV lanes, etc, but I'm simply trying to point out why they came into existence in the first place, and why they got built out in such numbers over the past decade and a half. I'm also trying to point out that H.R.3 doesn't set the terms for SOV access based on congestion reduction, but on emissions terms. This is contrary to what people believe and leads them to think that either all hybrids have access or should have access to HOV lanes. They also don't realize how many Ford and GM large vehicles have access to the lanes now.

Generally, HOV lanes tend to be on federal highways, and the main interest of the feds with respect to local transportation is air quality. Congestion is a problem in and of itself that leads to worse air quality, but the fact that people experience the headaches of congestions isn't relative at a federal level.

Certainly there's an element of energy conservation which has come into play during times of high gas prices, but it's not a constant. The onyl constant is the issue of air quality.

Got any links pointing to some literature about the first HOV lanes and the discussions surrounding them?

They're hard to come by, as I was curious about this a while back.

"HOV lanes originated as an environmental measure to reduce emissions by reducing vehicle use. Federal Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 require that areas designated as severe or extreme ozone nonattainment areas enact Transportation Control Measures (TCMs). The Clean Air Act includes 16 TCMs (Title 1, Part A, Sec. 108(f)(1)(A) i – xvi), one of which is conversion to or construction of HOV lanes. "
http://www.azdot.gov/TPD/ATRC/publications/project_reports/PDF/AZ552.PDF

"For a variety of reasons, promotion of carpooling via the creation of HOV lanes became a dominant feature of federal transportation policy by the 1990s. The Clean Air Act of 1990 listed HOV lanes as a transportation measure states could use to attain federal air quality standards, and the 1991 Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) encouraged the construction of HOV lanes by making such facilities eligible for Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) funds. ISTEA also changed the federal government’s involvement in highway funding. Previously, states could receive a 90 percent federal matching share if they added general-purpose lanes. After ISTEA, that arrangement was only offered to HOV projects. ISTEA also allowed states to define a 'high occupancy' vehicle as one that has as few as two occupants."
http://www.reason.org/ps337polsum.pdf

Hal

Actually, adding hybrids to the carpool lanes has been a big problem in California. Traditionally the speed in the carpool lane has been 75 MPH. I used to drive them pretty often taking my daughter back and forth to college and 75 was the standard speed. Faster than that, I'd catch up to people in front of me, and slower, I'd have cars piling up behind me. Of course when the traffic got really bad even the carpool lane slowed down, but when things were moving OK that was what you saw.

Now, with the hybrids entering the lane, it is a new culture and a new mentality. Those guys are trying to save gas. And as many studies have shown, mileage greatly decreases below about 60 MPH. Plus those hybrids have big fat mileage meters on the dashboard screaming at the drivers that they're blowing it when they go much faster than this. The result is that you have SUVs with multiple passengers wanting to go 75 piling up behind Prius drivers going 60-65, no faster in many cases than the other lanes.

The big problem is that there is no passing in the carpool lane! It is only one lane wide and is separated (in southern CA) from the other lanes so you can't duck in and out to pass someone. So if you get behind a Prius driver you lose most of the benefit of the carpool lane, the ability to go much faster than the other lanes. There's nothing more frustrating than to be in the supposedly "fast" lane and to be the slowest car on the road.

Plus as they make more and more cars eligible for these lanes, congestion in them increases and they are less likely to even offer a speed advantage over the other lanes, especially considering the risk of getting stuck behind a slowpoke whom you can't pass.

All in all adding hybrids to carpool lanes is not working out well, and expanding eligibility is only going to make things worse. Ultimately it may backfire by driving people out of carpools and back to their individual cars, as the advantage of being able to go into the carpool lane is eliminated.

Joseph Willemssen

All in all adding hybrids to carpool lanes is not working out well, and expanding eligibility is only going to make things worse. Ultimately it may backfire by driving people out of carpools and back to their individual cars, as the advantage of being able to go into the carpool lane is eliminated.

So you're against people paying their way into the HOV lanes, yes?

Also, if you could show actual evidence of "hybrid congestion", people getting lower MPG, and where exactly in a California HOV lane going 75 mph is legal, that would be helpful.

Believe it or not, plenty of people choose not to speed, so no matter what speed in the HOV lane is going to depend on the person in front of you. And also believe it or not, people in hybrids can and do speed. I myself had an Accord Hybrid on the highway this weekend doing 90 mph.

Erick

And as many studies have shown, mileage greatly decreases below about 60 MPH.

I'd like to see those studies! Everything I've seen and experienced shows that above 60 MPH mileage drops considerably, and most of that is due to wind resistance, it doesn't matter what size engine you have. Vehicles with less drag get affected less, but no vehicle is immune to the side effects of driving that fast.

odograph

hal, it works out for me to stay in the regular lanes and go 65 in my Prius. i only bother to get out in the HOV when there is a traffic jam or crush that drops below 55. at that point the carpool lane isn't moving that fast.

if there are people getting out there in good traffic, they are just bad drivers. that's sad, but there are bad drivers (and there have been slow carpoolers) everywhere.

lensovet

hey hal here's an idea.
you're willing to break the speed limit and go 75.
but OH NO! you can't weave in and out of the HOV lane, because that's ... um ... illegal! yeah!
dude, seriously, if you're breaking the rules, why make any distinctions at all? eh?
i'd also like to point out that a hybrid vehicle in an HOV lane for "regular" drivers is like a red flag for a bull, regardless of speed. when i drive the prius in the HOV lane, i go 74. i still get people piling up behind me. and you know what i say?
screw you.

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