Is it time for CARB to Leave total HOV-lane decals at 85,000?

California DMV Ends Dealer Pre-Registration For Green Plug-in HOV-Lane Decals

Since California began offering plug-in hybrids and extended-range electric cars single occupant carpool lane access through its green HOV-lane access decal program, more than 36,230 stickers out of a total quota of 40,000 have been issued.

California Green HOV-lane access decal

California Green HOV-lane access decal

Now, with less than 3,770 decals left, the Californian Department of Motor Vehicles has suspended a program designed to make it possible for auto dealers to pre-emptively apply for green HOV-lane access decals ahead of a vehicle sale.

Single-occupant HOV-lane access

Designed to run until January 1, 2019, California’s current HOV-lane access program grants single-occupant access to eligible electric cars, plug-in hybrids. range extended electric cars, hydrogen fuel-cell cars, and natural gas cars provided they display either a white or a green HOV-lane ‘Access OK’ decal.  Until that date, any car bearing either a white or green decal can use the state’s many miles of HOV lanes, regardless of how many people are inside.

The white decal program, which owners of all-electric, hydrogen fuel-cell cars and natural gas cars can apply to, is unlimited in number. It will continue to issue decals until the program end, regardless of the number of decals claimed.

The green decal program however, has always been limited by law to just 40,000 vehicles. To see which current vehicles qualify for either program, you can view the California Air Resources Board’s official Eligible Vehicle List, but it includes cars like the Chevrolet Volt, Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid and Ford C-Max Energi Plug-in Hybrid.

Pre-purchase applications

At current rates of between 80 and 120 decals per day, it is anticipated that there is just over six weeks of green decals left. This means anyone contemplating buying a new plug-in hybrid or range-extended electric car has as little as six weeks to close the deal or risk losing out on the perks of the HOV-lane access program.

Yet it appears that some of these daily applications come from auto dealers who are pre-registering new cars, long before they are even purchased by customers. This was done through the California Department of Motor Vehicle’s Green HOV Sticker Advance Purchase Program.

The Chevy Volt is a green-HOV-decal eligible car.

The Chevy Volt is a green-HOV-decal eligible car.

In many ways it was a win-win situation: customers could buy cars with decals pre-applied, avoiding the hassle of extra paperwork with the DMV. In turn, auto dealers could profit from having ‘pre-registered’ cars ready to drive away on their lot, something we’re sure commands a higher price for the average dealer than a non-HOV-lane decaled car.

A better chance?

The California DMV’s choice to suspend the Green HOV Sticker Advance Purchase Program is yet another indicator that the green HOV-lane decal quota has almost been met. Yet for would-be plug-in hybrid and range-extended EV owners, it could be a blessing in disguise.

That’s because we believe a fair number of applications to date have come from auto dealers pre-registering cars. Now that’s been disallowed — at least for the limited-number green decals — we think the number of applications may slow down a little.

This means those who are in the market for a new car may have a little longer to make a purchase decision.

Our advice

If you’re a Californian in the market for a plug-in hybrid or range-extended EV and you want to benefit from the HOV-lane program, we’d advise acting sooner rather than later to ensure you have a better chance of gaining one of the highly-prized decals. In addition, you’ll find that having a decal on your car will raise its resale value substantially if you plan on selling it before January 1, 2019.

But we’d also recommend you consider a fully-electric car instead. With public charging infrastructure growing on a daily basis, it’s worth asking yourself if you could dump the pump completely and go all-electric, hiring a gasoline car when needed.

Either way, good luck — and let us know what you do!

[Hat-tip: George Betak]


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