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HYBRIDS IN THE CARPOOL LANE (WITHOUT A CARPOOL)

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Apr 4, 2004

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

LA CAR's long-term Prius at the South Coast AQMD facility.

HYBRIDS & CALIFORNIA'S CARPOOL LANE

This tip comes courtesy of Sev MacPete of the Yahoo Toyota-Prius group: "Everyone in California who supports hybrid vehicle use of the HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lanes by driver only-occupied vehicles should comment on the legislation before April 12, when Assembly Bill 2628 will be discussed in the Transportation Committee. It is easy to do by going to http://www.assembly.ca.gov/legcomment and entering Assembly and Bill Number 2628. Check off support and add a comment if you like."

The Bill, introduced by California State Assembly Member Fran Pavley (principal coauthor, Assembly Member George Nakano), will amend the state's vehicle code to allow owners of certain hybrid vehicles to travel on the carpool lanes even without a carpool. State law already allows CNG (compressed natural gas), LPG (liquid petroleum gas) and pure electric cars that meet the Federal government's ILEV (Inherently Low Emissions Vehicle) standards (you must acquire an AB71 decal from your local Department of Motor Vehicles office before you can actually travel in single-occupant mode). AB2628 proposes to extend this privilege to vehicles that (1) meet the state's advanced technology partial zero-emission vehicle (AT PZEV) standard for pollutant emissions, and (2) have an EPA highway rating of 45 miles per gallon or higher or are gas/electric hybrid vehicles produced during the 2004 model year (or newer) and carry a combined EPA rating of 45 mpg.

Under this bill, three hybrid vehicles will qualify for single-occupant HOV lane status: The 2004 Toyota Prius, Honda Civic Hybrid, and Honda Insight. What's the rationale? It's partly an incentive to wean Californians off of their high SUV (or other high carb vehicle) diet, and over to low emissions, high-fuel economy hybrids. It's also partly to encourage manufacturers to build such vehicles.

There's one catch to this bill: The DMV won't start issuing HOV decals to hybrid owners until the Federal government acts to approve the use of HOV lanes by single-occupant hybrid vehicles. The green light for that is currently riding on the energy bill now being debated in Congress. AB 2628 will put California in a standby mode: Once the Feds act on it, the state's DMV workers will be ready to issue those decals. In the meantime, you can take Sev's advice and go to http://www.assembly.ca.gov/legcomment.

- Roy Nakano

News Update: The Federal legislation has passed! For the latest, see Hybrid Owners, Go Get Your Carpool Stickers! For a showdown between the Hummer H2 and the Toyota Prius: The Hummer & the Hybrid See also: The Best Cars To Drive In Rush Hour Traffic

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