BMW i3 EV now on CARB’s ‘HOV-Lane’ List: BMW i3 REx Nowhere to be Seen…

In the state of California, HOV-lane access — or rather the state’s laws granting single-occupant High Occupancy Vehicle lane access for qualifying zero emissions, transitional low emission and advanced technology partial zero emission vehicles — has for many years influenced the type of cars people buy.

With no tailpipe emissions, every highway-capable electric car on sale today in the state is eligible to wear a White Clean Air Vehicle Sticker.  Most plug-in hybrids are eligible for the Green Clean Air Vehicle Sticker.  To help buyers decided which car they can buy, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) even publishes an up-to-date list on its website, detailing which cars are eligible for what sticker. Updated regularly, it has been steadily growing over the past few years.

The BMW i3 has been given its HOV-lane access certification for California. The BMW i3 REx hasn't... yet.

The BMW i3 has been given its HOV-lane access certification for California. The BMW i3 REx hasn’t… yet.

Earlier this week, the all-electric BMW i3 BEV appeared on CARB’s official eligibility list, informing would-be owners that once they own their car, they can apply for one of the unlimited-in-number white decals. Yet the BMW i3 REx — which BMW has said in the past should qualify for the Green sticker — hasn’t appeared.

Worst still, the Green stickers — limited in number to just 40,000 — are rapidly running out, and could easily be all taken in less than two months.

In the past three days, we’ve had three different people — who say they’re interested in buying the BMW i3 REx within the state of California — contact us to ask why the i3 REx hasn’t shown up on CARB’s list yet. And we’ve seen compelling evidence to suggest that given the rate at which Green HOV lane access stickers were being allocated towards the end of the year, they may be all allocated by the early part of May.

We reached out to BMW this afternoon, and asked why the BMW i3 REx hadn’t appeared on the CARB list yet. A BMW spokesperson declined to comment on the status of the i3 REx’s CARB certification or even if the car had been submitted for CARB certification. We were however given the following statement on the BMW i3 REx.

“The i3 with Range Extender (BEVx) qualifies for the ‘green’ HOV lane sticker. The number of ‘green’ stickers is limited in numbers and will eventually run out (possibly late in 2014). The BMW i3 BEV qualifies for the ‘white’ sticker which is not limited in number. This is not a reversal of position on stickers for the i3 BEVx since cars equipped with an internal combustion engine, which may emits [sic] fuel vapor, generally do not qualify for the Inherently Low Emission Vehicle (ILEV) status required for the ‘white’ sticker. It also bears mentioning that the i3 with Range Extender (BEVx) qualifies for the full CA incentive amount of $2,500.”

Having spent the day investigating further, we understand from unnamed sources that the i3 REx — which CARB call the i3 BEVx — has not yet received any certification for the HOV lane access program. We were unable to ascertain from any of our contacts if the car has been submitted or not for certification, or how long the process is expected to take.

At the end of 2013, 28,739 green HOV lane stickers had been allocated.  There are only 40,000 in total. In November, stickers were being allocated at a mean rate of 89 sticker per day. In December, it was slightly lower at 80 stickers per day.

If we assume that rate of allocation continues into this year and accelerates slightly due to new cars like the Cadillac ELR hitting the market (at say, 85 to 90 sticker per day) we’d estimate the Green Stickers will run out by the start of May.  That’s far sooner than BMW’s official estimate: in fact, it’s a full six-months earlier.2014 BMW All-Electric i3 Press Drive.

Then there’s the problem of BMW’s high-end three-month launch-edition. If you’re in the market for a BMW i3, but you don’t want the high-spec model (worth in excess of $50,875 for the i3 EV and $54,725 for the i3 REx) you’ll have to wait three months more to get your car. If you’re a Californian resident who needs or wants the option of the range-extending engine, the chances are you’ll miss out on one of those highly-prized green HOV lane stickers.

And that’s even assuming the i3 REx is certified by then.

Are you in California? Are you frustrated by the wait, and lack of information? Have you now changed your order to another car because you’re worried you’ll miss out on the sticker?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.

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Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield
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Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield

Self-confessed geek and mother of two, Nikki has been talking and writing about cars ever since she passed her driving test. Back then, her Internet contributions were all classic car-focused. Now, she’s all about greener, cleaner, safer and smarter cars.
Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield
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