California state senate approves bills extending sole-occupant HOV perk for plug-ins and alt fuel vehicles to 2019
The California state senate has approved two related bills (AB-266 and SB-286) that extend the existing programs that allow solo drivers to use carpool lanes (high occupancy vehicle, HOV) lanes as an incentive.
In California, depending on the particular HOV lane, a vehicle must normally have a minimum of either two or three occupants in order to access the lane during operational hours.
Existing law exempts certain clean, alternative-fuel vehicles from these occupancy requirements, so that a vehicle with a sole occupant may use an HOV lane—if the vehicle displays a Clean Air Vehicle sticker. The state has implemented three clean air vehicle HOV sticker programs in recent years:
White HOV stickers. AB 71 (Cunneen), Chapter 330, Statutes of 1999, established the “white sticker program,” which allows vehicles that meet certain strict emission standards to drive in HOV lanes with a single occupant. These vehicles are typically pure battery electric vehicles, dedicated compressed natural gas or liquid petroleum gas vehicles, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, such as the Nissan Leaf, the Tesla Roadster, and the Honda Civic CNG.
State law places no limit on the number of stickers that can be issued; as of 1 March 2013, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) had issued 23,223 white stickers. This program expires on 1 January 2015.
Yellow HOV stickers (expired). AB 2628 (Pavley), Chapter 725, Statutes of 2004, established the “yellow sticker program,” which granted HOV lane access to certain single-occupant, hybrid or alternatively fueled vehicles. Federal law allows single-occupant vehicles in HOV lanes only if they have been federally certified as low-emission vehicles; at that time, no hybrid vehicles met federal emissions requirements. To address this, AB 2628 conditioned its implementation on the state receiving a federal waiver.
In April 2006, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) granted conditional approval, enabling the yellow sticker program to go into effect. Under this program, DMV issued yellow stickers for the Toyota Prius and Honda Civic Hybrid. The number of vehicles that might be issued these stickers was ultimately capped at 85,000, a limit that was reached in 2007; all yellow stickers expired on 1 July 2011.
Green HOV stickers. SB 535 (Yee), Chapter 215, Statutes of 2010, established the “green sticker program,” which allows certain single-occupant vehicles—generally, plug-in hybrid vehicles that meet the Air Resources Board’s strictest emission standard—to drive in carpool lanes. The only vehicles eligible to date for green stickers are the Chevrolet Volt, Ford C-Max Energi, Ford Fusion Energi, Toyota Prius Plug-In, and Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid.
State law limits the number of green stickers that DMV may issue to 40,000. This program began on 1 January 2012; as of 1 March 2013, DMV had issued 10,881 green stickers. These stickers are valid until 1 January 2015.
SB-286 extends the sunset date on provisions of existing law that allows green HOV sticker vehicles to use HOV lanes with a single occupant from 1 January 2015 to 1 January 2019, or until federal authorization expires or until the Secretary of State receives that specified notice, whichever occurs first. It also deletes obsolete and redundant provisions of existing law. The bill is double-jointed to and contingent upon successful enactment of AB-266.
AB-266 extends the sunset date on provisions of existing law that allows white HOV sticker vehicles to use HOV lanes with a single occupant from 1 January 2015 to 1 January 2019, or until federal authorization expires or until the Secretary of State receives that specified notice, whichever occurs first. It also deletes obsolete and redundant provisions of existing law and is double-jointed to, and contingent upon successful enactment of, SB 286.