Plug-in Hybrids and HOV Lanes: Déjà Don’t.



Ahh, one of my favorite California bills is back. No, not that one. The one that allows plug-in hybrids into CA HOV lanes with just one occupant.

The original allocation of 40,000 green stickers that indicate HOV eligibility for PHEVs has been exhausted. AB 2013 proposes to make 45,000 more stickers available immediately, and is currently headed to the CA Senate. All 85,000 PHEV stickers would still expire in 2019.

The bill’s proponents mean well. Problem is, without any meaningful EV range requirement, it remains the poorly-constructed law it always has been. Parameters for each incentive should be based on its intended goal: in this case, to encourage commuting on plug-in electric power. Stands to reason then, that eligible vehicles should be able to operate in electric mode at freeway speeds for the length of a standard roundtrip commute (~30 miles, give or take).

For the last couple years, the lanes have been open to any car with a plug, even those that are far more gas than electric. But it’s time to step up. If we’re going to allow more PHEVs into HOV lanes, we need to expect more from them.

I get the inclination to take the easy win toward selling a few more PHEVs, I really do. But in the grand scheme, it wasn’t much of a win nearly four years ago when this law was first passed, and it certainly isn’t now.


Your California State legislators may be found here. Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (sponsor of AB 2013) can be contacted here.

14 thoughts on “Plug-in Hybrids and HOV Lanes: Déjà Don’t.

  1. I agree. Once these cars get into the HOV lanes and start moving fast, they are hardly different that a regular car unless they are 100% electric.

  2. Meaningless law if the CHP can’t enforce it. I see plenty of single drivers in work trucks and other law breakers all the time in the HOV lanes.

    Do people really get a ticket for driving in the HOV lane? I think not.

  3. Why hate on the short EV range PHEVs? They are a step in the right direction. They are the gateway vehicles to plug-in market growth. Considering how few cars are plug-ins (even in CA), I don’t see any reason to exclude any car that has 10 miles or more of EV range.

    As you have pointed out, the EV community has far too many circular firing squads (see link). When plug-in vehicles are 25% or even 10% of the market, then we starting talking about which ones are “electric enough”. Until then they should all get a slobbering of love.

    I don’t live in CA and don’t know much about the HOV stickers, so I’m sure you know more about this than I do. Given the US fleet today, I just don’t understand the dis on any car that plugs in.

  4. Pat, because people are buying the plug in Prius just to drive in the HOV lanes and some do not even plug in at all. Bought it for HOV access. Let alone understand it is <15 miles electric and even less at real highway speeds.

    1. If you don’t plug it in, it does not matter what the electric range is, so this program could be abused by any PHEV. Sure some people will take advantage of the program, but it gets more plug-in vehicles on the road. And should those people that are plugging in and have a 10 mile all-electric commute be punished because of the abusers? Additionally, while plugging in may not be a priority for everyone, they *can* plug it in and when they see how much cheaper is is to drive on electrons then gas, they will be motivated to plug in. Maybe their workplace will install more infrastructure next year because of all the PEVs on the lot. The data that I have seen for the Prius Plug-in is that about 1/3rd of the miles are electric. That is 1/3rd more that the gas Prius. Yes the plug-in Prius is only “lightly electrified”, same with the BMW i8, but there are other non-electrified cars that should be castigated before these are the subjects of our disrelish, IMHO.

  5. Pat, this is not about “punishing” any particular vehicle model (I didn’t name any on purpose). But, not all plug-ins are equally entitled to every single incentive, nor are they entitled for all time. The fed tax credit varies based on battery size. Some state incentives (incl. CA) vary between EVs and PHEVs, even though a PHEV may actually have more electric range than some of the “pure” EVs. Each incentive has a different intent; the HOV incentive is not meant *just* to encourage plug-in hybrid purchases in general, it is meant to facilitate electric commuting. PHEVs that run primarily on gasoline for freeway commutes do not fit that purpose. (Yes, I know a few Prius drivers with especially short commutes may be able to accomplish theirs in electric mode if there’s enough traffic to keep speeds down- doesn’t change the overall point.)

    Incentives also need to evolve as technology evolves and matures. Inherently, most should be temporary. But HOV perks are a perfect example of one that’s evolved: gas-only hybrids were eligible for years, but were phased out as plug-ins came to market. All PHEVs have been eligible for some time, too. Now, we need to get more serious about encouraging increased electrification, even as we also don’t actively discourage those who want less-electrified models. It will likely become appropriate to phase out all PHEVs for this perk (and some believe it’s already time). This is a proposed middle-ground.

  6. I agree that there should be a minimum range of 150 miles electric.

    People who have worked hard and can afford a Tesla, and then have made the great investment in the car, should not have to experience the lane clogged up by ordinary riff raff. Driving in that lane solo is a true privilege and those with a lesser commitment to the green life should drive in the traffic with the ICE people.

    1. I am with you, Robert, except that I think it should be 200 miles, not 150. We pay almost all the taxes in the California, and if I buy a Tesla each for the kids and the rest of the family, we should get something for it back. We also shouldn’t have to wait in line at the DMV, and on Fridays City Hall should be open for us Tesla owners, in the case we need a bureaucrat to wake up from watching porn on their PCs. We pay 99% of all taxes and if we buy a handful of $115,000 cars for the family, this should be part of the package. If they don’t treat us well, I’m moving to Texas where the income tax is ZERO. Bye bye California!

      1. PaloAlto,

        You raise an important point. Those of us driving the Teslas pay a very high rate of tax, imposed on us by the People’s Republic of California. There are ways to shelter one’s income and avoid some of the taxes. But one of the legitimate benefits is that $2,500 credit in California.

        But even more, those of us driving the Teslas are busy, highly productive people. Our time is valuable– to us, but also to the businesses we own. Its not constructive for society for us to be stuck in traffic. Those HOV lanes need to be reserved for the true value creators.

        The traffic on highways gets really clogged during rush hour. Drivers who have stepped up to the Tesla should not have their movement impeded.

        I know some people may find this an elitist point of view. But its time that those of us who really contribute to society spoke up, and that we are getting what we earned.

  7. 75 % of my driving is on EV, on gas is over 40 mpg. I think the green stickers should be allowed to 85,000, the same # of yellow stickers. Whites are unlimited. Don’t be a hater.

  8. Luckily I live in Utah and All EV’s get access to the HOV lanes as one occupant. Downtown Salt Lake City lets the EV’s park for free.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s