CA Green HOV-Lane Plug-in Sticker Watch: Nearly 5,000 Claimed in Three Weeks

Just over a month ago, Californian Governor Jerry Brown signed budget trailer bill SB 853 into law, making an additional 15,000 green HOV-lane access decals available to eligible plug-in hybrid and range-extended electric car owners in the state.

Nearly 5,000 of the additional 15,000 access decals made available on July 1 have already been claimed

Nearly 5,000 of the additional 15,000 access decals made available on July 1 have already been claimed

While SB 853 extended the total number of green HOV-lane access decals permissible under the HOV-lane access program from 40,000 to 55,000, California’s Department of Motor Vehicles has already handed out 4,903 of the additional 15,000 decals less than one month after the extension came into effect.

That’s according to the official Californian ARB website, which states that as of July 21 last week, 44,903 green HOV-lane decals had been allocated to eligible range-extended electric and plug-in hybrid cars within the state. One week later, we’d guess that the total number of decals remaining under the program is now under 10,000.

Like the unlimited-in-number white HOV lane access decals which are available to fully electric, hydrogen fuel cell and compressed natural gas vehicles, the green HOV lane access decal program enables cars displaying the decals to drive in the many hundreds of miles of high occupancy vehicle (carpool) lanes throughout the state of California, even if the driver is the sole occupant of the vehicle. As a consequence, having an HOV-lane access decal on your vehicle can significantly reduce your commuting time and even increase the value of your vehicle if you decide to sell it.

Designed to run until January 1, 2019, the green HOV-lane access program originally stipulated a maximum quota of 40,000 decals. As of March this year, California’s DMV had already allocated 36,320 of the decals under the program, promoting it to halt a dealer pre-registration program which allowed dealers to put decals on cars before they were sold. Even with pre-registrations halted however, the number of decals being allocated on a daily basis continued to soar, exhausting the original 40,000 decal quota by mid-April, meaning that anyone who purchased a qualifying plug-in vehicle during May and June were forced to wait until SB 853 came into force on July 1 to obtain a decal for their car.

The Chevrolet Volt is one of the many plug-in hybrids and range-extended EVs eligible to wear a Green HOV-lane access decal in California.

The Chevrolet Volt is one of the many plug-in hybrids and range-extended EVs eligible to wear a Green HOV-lane access decal in California.

This two month backlog most likely accounts for the massive number of HOV lane decals awarded in the first three weeks of July. Equivalent to more than 233 decals per day, the 4,903 decals awarded during the first twenty-one days of July suggest that the new 55,000 decal limit could be hit by the end of the Summer if application rates continue at current levels. If we assume the increased rate of applications is a result of a two-month backlog however, we think it’s more likely that California’s DMV will run out of decals some time in October or November.

By then Californian Assembly Bill AB-2013, introduced  back in February to extend the number of green HOV lane access decals to 85,000, will have hopefully passed both houses and be signed into law. Passed from the Californian Assembly to the Senate earlier this year, the bill is currently awaiting its third reading.

For the time being however, if you’re in California and you’re about to purchase a plug-in hybrid or range-extended electric car like the BMW i3 REx, you may want to make sure you get the application form for an HOV-lane access decal filed sooner rather than later. If you’re not sure how to do that, this helpful video from General Motors shows you how easy it is.

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