Slow Uptake on Green Carpool Stickers for Plug-in Hybrids

By · August 20, 2012

Chevy Volt in HOV lane />

Fewer than 4,000 of California’s green carpool lane stickers—targeted to promote sales of plug-in hybrids—have been issued so far, according to figures from the California Department of Motor Vehicles. As of Aug. 3, the state had issued 2,643 decals to Prius Plug-In owners and 1,114 to Volt owners, according to a report in North County Times.

The stickers give owners of plug-in hybrids access to the carpool lane, even if driving solo. The Prius Plug-in Hybrid reported its first sales in April. Chevy Volts became eligible for HOV lane sticker in February, after it earned status as an enhanced alternative technology, partial zero emission vehicle (or eAT-PZEV). General Motors added a secondary air-injection pump to clean up the Volt's emissions, which thereby qualified Chevy's plug-in hybrid for the green sticker.

White Clean Air Vehicle Stickers are available to an unlimited number of qualifying pure zero emissions vehicles, like the Nissan LEAF and Ford Focus Electric. But only 40,000 green stickers for plug-in hybrids will be issued. The expiration date for both stickers is January 1, 2015.

Despite the fact that plug-in hybrids are outselling pure electric cars, it’s too early to tell if all 40,000 stickers will be issued before the end of 2014. At its current pace, some stickers would remain available when the program expires. Ford will soon begin selling two new plug-in hybrids, the Ford C-Max Energi and Ford Fusion Energi—which could boost sales, and therefore the number of green carpool stickers that are issued.

The state gave yellow car-pool lane stickers to drivers of conventional hybrids starting in 2004, and stopped that program when it reached its limit of 85,000 stickers in 2007.

Access to the HOV lane along California’s crowded highways is very desirable for solo drivers, who can otherwise get caught in dreadful rush-hour traffic. Randall Blaum, an Internet sales specialist for Quality Chevrolet in Escondido and a Volt specialist for Southern California sales, told the North County Times, "If [a customer] is a huge commuter, it's a huge benefit."

Volt sales have tripled since the state's new decal, as well as a $1,500 rebate for Volt buyers, became available early this year, according to Shad Balch, a GM spokesman. Balch called the benefits "one of the biggest selling features of the car."

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