California’s carpool lanes will soon be “off limits” to solo drivers of hybrid vehicles displaying “yellow” clean air stickers. The stickers expire July 1, 2011
To make sure everyone is aware of this change, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will mail out 85,000 letters to registered vehicle owners with these stickers beginning May 1, 2011. The information will also include a warning: solo drivers caught cruising in a High-Occupancy (HOV) lane, after the expiration date, will be cited.
In 2004, Assembly Bill 2628 created the “yellow” sticker program, which allowed hybrid vehicles to also access HOV lanes. However, the privilege of driving alone in the carpool lane ends on June 30, 2011.
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The hybrid vehicles that enjoyed the carpool exemption met California’s strict partial zero emissions standards and had a 45 miles per gallon or greater fuel economy highway rating.
The next generation of clean air stickers is anticipated to be released in 2012. They will allow solo drivers in as many as 40,000 advanced technology vehicles, which meet even stricter California emission standards, to use carpool lanes. Specific vehicle types that will qualify for the new program have yet to be identified.
This program was born out of the need to find ways to improve air quality and ease freeway congestion. Lawmakers decided that by offering a solo driver, ‘carpool’ incentive, the public would be encouraged to invest in environmentally friendly, low emission vehicles. Transportation experts said HOV lanes were under-used and this would improve traffic flow.
The passage of Assembly Bill 71 in 1999 allowed all electric vehicles, such as the Tesla Roadster or the Toyota RAV-4 EV, to use carpool lanes with a solo driver. These vehicles, which meet both state and federal low-emission vehicle standards, were issued “white” stickers. More than 10,000 stickers have been issued and are valid until January 1, 2015. These stickers continue to be issued for an unlimited number of specified vehicles.
For more information on the types of vehicles that qualify for clean air stickers, you may visit the California Air Resources Board web site by clicking here.