No solo gas hybrid drivers allowed in California HOV lanes

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A close-up of a yellow California HOV sticker.

There's no free pass for solo gas hybrid drivers in the HOV lane anymore. (Photo Credit: CC BY-ND/billaday/Flickr)

California commuters wage war on a daily basis, jockeying for position like post-Apocalyptic road warriors en route to their destinations. Gasoline and time come at a premium, which makes California’s July 1 decision to restrict carpool law a problem for commuters who invested in the Honda Prius hybrid. Automotive News suggests Honda missed a golden opportunity.

No solo hybrid drivers in the carpool lane

As of July 1, 2011, California carpool lanes became off limits to solo gasoline hybrid drivers, writes the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Any solo driver caught driving a yellow sticker program hybrid – where the sticker signifies clean air compliance – in a High-Occupancy (HOV) lane will now be cited as much as $430 for a single infraction. State DMV officials mailed more than 85,000 letters to registered owners beginning May 1.

A similar California carpool lane restriction was proposed in 2005, but the state eventually agreed to extend HOV lane access to solo Honda Prius, Insight and Civic Hybrid drivers.

Honda could have been cooking with gas

This California carpool lane law change should have come as no surprise to hybrid vehicle makers like Honda, writes Automotive News. Gasoline hybrids no longer meet state regulations for solo HOV lane use, but natural gas and pure electric vehicles are still permitted through at least 2015. Considering that Honda has the natural gas vehicle (NGV) Civic in its stable of vehicles, it is bizarre that the automaker is not supplying its California dealers with sufficient stock. At best, the 2012 NGV won’t be available until the fall, which will amount to a great deal of lost summer revenue for Honda.

According to Dave Conant, president of Norm Reeves Honda in Cerritos, Calif., the automaker has left dealers in the lurch over natural gas.

“Every single person who bought a hybrid to get into the carpool lane is trying to get an NGV Civic, and none exists right now,” he said. “There is a real premium on the used versions. We found one or two.”

Know which vehicles qualify

California drivers who want to know more about which vehicles still qualify for yellow HOV stickers should see the California Air Resources Board website for the most up-to-date information.

No more solo hybrid drivers in California HOV lanes

Sources

Automotive News

California Air Resources Board

California Department of Motor Vehicles

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