Carpool lane privileges to fuel electric car sales

August 11, 2010 5:24:54 PM PDT
Thousands of solo drivers in hybrid cars are getting some good news about stickers that let them use carpool lanes during commute hours. Plus, there is a new incentive coming soon to fuel electric car sales.

Hybrid drivers cannot get the stickers anymore as they went very quickly, several years ago. Now, a new program for new stickers may be on the horizon.

While a lot of California drivers are stuck in traffic jams, 85,000 solo drivers in certain hybrids with a certain sticker will be getting a free pass in the carpool lane during commute hours. They will expire in a few months on January 1, 2011. A new bill passed out of the Senate extends that use for six more months, much to the delight of sticker holders who find carpool lanes faster.

"When you're running late for work and you have a meeting, they're wonderful, to be in that carpool lane," Kathy Lynch says.

After the pass expires, the state will then create new stickers to start in 2012, but they will be for drivers using the next generation of green cars, plug-ins like the new Chevy Volt and the all-electric Nissan Leaf which will be on the market soon.

Only 40,000 of the new stickers will be made.

"Now, we've got better technology, so we should incentivize a new crop of individuals to buy these particular cars. That's going to help our environment even more," says Democratic Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco.

But, then those 85,000 with the original stickers who were on the cutting edge back then, will be kicked out of the carpool lanes and would have to drive in the regular lanes with the rest of us.

That is why some lawmakers voted against the new proposal.

"Putting more cars, crowding into the existing space and leaving those carpool lanes open is not a good idea," says Republican Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth of Murrieta. "We need to be utilizing them. They cost a lot of money and they should be opened up to everybody."

With new stickers possibly on the way, consumers might be tempted to buy the new plug-ins at a time when some models qualify for federal and/or state credits.

"The sticker is an added bonus and I think also, you tend to look at people in the carpool lane and it's almost like roadside advertising for these vehicles," Lynch says.

The proposal to extend the old stickers and create the new sticker program now heads to the governor's desk. If he signs it, the new stickers will be good until 2015.


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