Electric and hybrid vehicles could lose carpool access next year

For years, many electric and hybrid vehicle owners in California have qualified for temporary “clean air vehicle” stickers that allow them to move freely in the carpool lane, even when driving alone.

But this freedom may be coming to an end.

If the federal government does not extend the program allowing alternative fuel vehicles to use the carpool lane, it will expire on September 30, 2025.

In 2005, legislation authorized the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to allow solo drivers of low-emission, energy-efficient cars to use the carpool lane. The goal was to promote the adoption of alternative fuel vehicles and help meet environmental goals, said Ronald Ongtoaboc, public information officer for the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

These goals align with the goals of carpool lanes, which aim to reduce fuel consumption and pollution caused by congested highways, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

In the years that followed, states gained the power to choose which vehicle models to provide access to ridesharing; their decisions were driven by purchasing trends and technological advancements. But the highway funding bill passed in 2015 extended that power until September 29, 2025.

“After this date, the public authority must cease to authorize the use of such vehicles in HOV lanes unless such vehicle has the required number of occupants or Congress extends this provision,” Ongtoaboc said.

A 2022 update to California’s Clean Air Vehicle decals granted low- and zero-emission vehicles access to dedicated vehicle lanes until September 30, 2025.

At the time of the update, there were 411,133 vehicles in California with active CAV stickers. Since the program began in January 2001, the DMV has issued more than 1 million stickers on cars meeting state criteria, Ongtoaboc said.

Only new owners of eligible vehicles are eligible for decals. And since 2018, newly issued stickers expire after four years or less, with no possibility of renewing them.

Decals issued since 2022 are scheduled to expire when state law does, on September 30, 2025. If the federal government and California Legislature extend the decal program beyond that date, the DMV will evaluate the new requirements before to make a decision on whether to extend the existing decals, Ongtoaboc said.

Regardless of color, all stickers issued before 2021 have now expired.

California Daily Newspapers

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