California extends program giving carpool lane rights to hybrids

Sept. 4, 2013 at 7:03 PM
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SACRAMENTO, Sept. 4 (UPI) -- A California program allowing solo drivers of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles to drive in high-occupancy carpool lanes has been extended, officials say.

The program, which issues stickers to electric vehicle such as the Tesla Model S, Nissan Leaf or Fiat 500e and plug-in hybrid vehicles such as the Toyota Plug-in Prius or Chevrolet Volt allowing full access to HOV lanes even if driven solo, has been extended until 2019, CNET reported Wednesday.

The HOV lane sticker program was scheduled to come to a close at the end of 2015, but a bill approved by the state legislature has extended the program.

A number of federal and state tax incentives/rebates, along with the HOV stickers, have convinced many California drivers of the justification of the higher cost of plug-in vehicles, which can be $10,000 more than regular gas/electric hybrids.

"California has always been leading the way when it comes to lowering our carbon footprint," Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, said. "These standards entice Californians to utilize the most environmentally friendly vehicles."

Some vehicles that previously qualified for the HOV lane privilege no longer do so since the original program was modified in 2011 to remove access for standard non-plug-in hybrids, a move that angered many Californians who'd paid the premium price for such vehicles.

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