Seven plug-in vehicles, including the Chevy Volt, qualify for a green sticker in California that enables solo drivers to use the carpool lanes until 2015. However, barely over 9,000 stickers have been issued out of 40,000. That's a slow start considering the previous and now-expired 85,000 yellow decals for hybrids went like hotcakes.
"This program has been around for one full year and actually, 9,000 is pretty good because these are very specialized cars," said Jan Mendoza with the California Department of Motor Vehicles.
The price may be making customers hesitant to buy these more expensive cars. Plug-ins cost up to $10,000 more than a hybrid and Californians may not feel confident enough in the economy to splurge.
Clean-air advocates say it's too early to say the results are disappointing, especially when sales towards the end of last year picked up, nearly 1,400 alone in November. The goal of cleaner air is still worthy. "Each clean vehicle on the roads means fewer asthma attacks and fewer hospitalizations for serious public health problems," explained Bonnie Holmes with the American Lung Association
With the slow start, the original author of the green sticker program wants to sweeten the pot by giving drivers a couple of more years in the carpool lane. State Senator Leland Yee will introduce the bill next week, hoping the extended life in the carpool lane will make up for the price and nudge potential buyers.
"It's a little more expensive, and the fact that you can use these particular vehicles on a HOV lane, kind of helps settle the anxiety of the costs a little bit more." Yee said.
California already has 40 percent of all plug-ins registered in the United States, yet more than 30,000 green stickers are left.