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EPA Proposes New Guidelines for HOV Exemptions

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing criteria for certifying vehicles as clean and energy efficient to guide states that choose to allow such vehicles in high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes even when the vehicles have only one occupant.

The proposal applies to cars, SUVs, vans and trucks below 8,500 pounds and is designed to spur the purchase and use of vehicles that are better for the environment and energy security.  To be eligible for the HOV exemption, these vehicles would be required to meet specifications for both low emissions and energy-efficiency.

To be considered low emission, EPA proposes that a vehicle would have to be certified to either the stringent federal Tier 2 bin 5 standard (or cleaner) or the equally stringent California LEV II standards.


To be considered energy efficient, EPA proposes that a vehicle would have to be:

  • A dedicated alternative fuel vehicle; or

  • A hybrid vehicle achieving 50% or better in-city fuel economy or 25% or better in combined city/highway fuel economy compared to a similar gasoline fueled vehicle.

Any changes to HOV programs as a result of this proposal would be implemented by the Department of Transportation and enforced by the individual states that choose to allow HOV exemptions. States can opt to toughen EPA’s criteria, but may not reduce them.

The proposal was required by The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU). The SAFETEA-LU provision allowing states to adopt HOV exemptions is currently set to expire 30 Sept. 2009.



Wouldn't it be easier if the just put a person per MPG requirement on the use of these lanes?
If your vehicle gets 50 MPG you can ride alone. If your vehicle gets half that (25 mpg) you require 2 people in the car to use that lane. 18.5 mpg vehicles require 3 people.
With registration of the vehicle comes a color coded sticker for 1, 2, or 3 passengers required.
This way, the people with the money to buy better hybrids could use these lanes with 1 person, and the people with less money who still care about CO2 emissions, could gain that benefit by driving a 3 cylinder geo metro or riding a smaller motor cycle.
Hybrid tech gets promoted at the same time that being highly fuel efficient in any other form gets promoted.
The high MPG requirements assure us that these special use lanes don't get clogged by people driving mild hybrids getting less than 20 MPG.


I've thought about that too...

and it doesn't have to be linear. After all, each car is still causing (slight) damage to roads, taking up a parking spot downtown, etc. So, you keep the four stickers and on any given day it could be:

50 MPG (1)
27 MPG (2)
18 MPG (3)
14 MPG (4)

and, if the HOV lane starts to get too congested, you pop up the requirements, either according to a rush hour schedule or real-time. When it empties out a bit, you could lower the requirements back to baseline.


You would not like the interpretaion of this proposed legislation.

Insight - Yes
Prius - No
11 mpg cng 1 ton - Yes
48 mpg TDI on B99 - No


remember that HOV lanes are actually designed to improve emissions (which go south when congestion is bad), so pure MPG estimates are simply not enough. personally i think that the current CA requirements are pretty fair – at least 45 MPG and AT-PZEV emissions rating. alternatively, ZEV with no other reqs.


I wrote to the regulators many years before the HOV laws were announced. I said that HEVs should be allowed in the HOV lanes and they told me it was for air quality, not fuel savings. That sounded like a stock answer that made no sense, but they used it anyway.


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Lance Funston

The implication of the hybrid guidelines is that, if implemented, the HOV could become clogged with vehicles like the Yukon Hybrid once it becomes available.

I think the guidelines should simply look at emmissions plus fuel economy to decide whether a vehicle deserves the exemption.


"I think the guidelines should simply look at emmissions plus fuel economy to decide whether a vehicle deserves the exemption."

If only legislation followed some sort of logic...


Or, just make it accessible for rich people paying tolls. Gotta love this government.

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