California’s Green HOV-Lane Stickers Have Yet Again Run Out. What Now For Plug-in Hybrid Perk?

Like a backstage pass at a concert or the priority check in line at the airport, California’s white and green HOV lane stickers give Californians whose cars wear one special, superpower privileges.

Those little green stickers are worth so much.

Those little green stickers are worth so much.

Available only to cars whose emissions meet either Federal Inherently Low Emission and California’s Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emission vehicle classifications,  having an HOV-lane access sticker on your car grants you single occupant access to the state’s many miles of high-occupancy (carpool) lanes on freeways all over the state, shaving off hours from your weekly commute.

The white HOV-lane access stickers, unlimited in number, are available only to fully-electric cars, compressed natural gas cars and hydrogen fuel cell cars, while the green decals are only available to plug-in hybrid vehicles like the Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid, Chevrolet Volt range-extended EV, and BMW i3 REx range-extended plug-in.

The Green HOV-lane access sticker gives plug-in hybrid owners single-occupant HOV-lane access.

The Green HOV-lane access sticker gives plug-in hybrid owners single-occupant HOV-lane access.

But as our friends over at GreenCarReports detail, the green decals — limited in number to 70,000 — are about to run out.

This isn’t the first time the coveted Green HOV lane stickers have run out. Last year, after the original allocation of 40,000 Green HOV lane decals ran out, the state of California passed an emergency measure to add an additional. 15,000 decals to the HOV lane access pool. Then, a few months later, a further measure was passed to increase the number of Green HOV lane access stickers by another 15,000 to 70,000 decals.

As of May 11 — just a week ago — the California Department of Motor Vehicles had issued a total of 66,255 Green HOV lane decals, leaving just 3,745 left to claim. While there’s currently another bill making its way through the Californian legislature designed to raise the total number of decals to 85,000, current sales volumes of plug-in hybrids means that they too won’t last long.

Under current plans, California will continue to issue white HOV-lane access stickers until January 1, 2019, whereupon the stickers will become null and void for HOV lane use. White and green decals already issued will expire on the same date. But while California has planned for unlimited white HOV access decals as a way of encouraging more Californians to pick a 100 percent zero emission electric car, hydrogen fuel cell car or ultra-low emission CNG vehicle, the number of green HOV lane decals that will be issued if the latest bill to extend them is passed will more than double the original planned quota.

Continue extending the Green HOV-access program, or halt the quota?

Continue extending the Green HOV-access program, or halt the quota?

As far as we’re concerned, this means California has two choices: continually extend the Green HOV-access program, making it no different in effect to the white HOV-lane access program; or draw a line in the sand on the total number of decals issued.

If it does the first, then there’s no real incentive to encourage car buyers to choose a fully-electric car over a plug-in hybrid. If it does the latter, the value of plug-in hybrids wearing the green HOV-lane decal will stay artificially high on the used car market, while new plug-in hybrid and range-extended electric car sales will plummet.

We’ll be interested to see which option the state of California chooses.

Which would you prefer — and which do you think California should do? Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.

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