On Wednesday, the Governator signed AB 1500, which extends HOV lane privileges for a small number of California EV owners. However, the vast majority of the 85,000 sticker owners — owners of Prius and other hybrids — will be losing their carpool heating privileges on January 1.
John Voelcker of Green Car Reports spells out all the nuances and implications of the plan, which is aimed at handing out the perks to the Nissan Leaf and other expected EV/PHEV models — and keeping the perk for the RAV4 EV and other existing EV and CNG alternatives.
The policy decision makes all the sense in the world. The yellow stickers were always intended to be temporary incentives. The hybrids offer a marginal improvement over gasoline vehicles, particularly with the increasing fuel efficiency of affordable non-hybrid cars like the Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris.
The stickers provided a subsidy (with a market value of up to $1500/car) to fuel adoption of expensive hybrids by the affluent and upper middle class. Given their popularity — particularly in the urban areas where the HOV lanes are found — they’ve already served their purpose. Meanwhile, the 80,000+ (by one estimate) empty slots and lanes can be used to encourage adoption of a new round of lower emission vehicles.