In 2004, a law was passed in California to encourage consumers to purchase hybrid gasoline-electric cars with combined city-highway mileage of 45 miles per gallon or greater. Those drivers were issued a small yellow sticker for their vehicle that allows them to use carpool lanes with a single driver.
The 85,000 yellow stickers issued since 2004 are set to expire on January 1, 2011. Many California lawmakers have proposed legislation that would extend the life of the incentive program, but all have new qualification standards that would exclude many of the vehicles that originally qualified for the program, including the Toyota Prius, Honda Insight, and Honda Civic.
The yellow stickers and their white counterparts for electric and natural gas-fueled vehicles were originally planned to expire in 2008, but state legislators felt it necessary to extend the program until 2011.
The bills being considered for the new reward program offer extensions only to certain vehicles. One introduced by Assemblyman Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) would extend the carpool exemption through 2016, but only for vehicles running entirely on electricity, natural gas, or any other alternative fuel. It has been passed by the Assembly, but a competing bill in the Senate includes some hybrid vehicles provided that they have a combined city-highway fuel economy of 65 miles per gallon or better, which is well above the official ratings of most current hybrid models.
“What we’re saying is that the hybrid isn’t good enough anymore,” Adam Keigwin, chief of staff for Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), told the L.A. Times. Yee sponsored the Senate bill. It remains to be seen whether lawmakers will vote to extend the deadline for the white stickers past 2011. Many of these vehicles, such as the natural-gas-powered Honda GX, are part of commercial or government fleets.
Photo courtesy of dherrera 96 under the Creative Commons License.