Should non-carpooling hybrids in HOV lanes get the boot?

New California legislation will no longer allow low-passenger hybrids in carpool lanes. Will other states end the perk, too? Should they?
Written by Melissa Mahony, Contributor

California governor Schwarzenegger signed Assembly Bill 1500 last week. The new law will allow the drivers of full electric and compressed natural gas vehicles to use carpool lanes without being in a carpool until 2015.

Since 2004, the state has issued 85,000 of the yellow "Access OK" stickers (right) for low-emission vehicles.They stopped granting any new permits in 2007.

For the drivers of these stickered hybrids currently enjoying the beat-the-traffic advantage, their HOV-lane privileges will end.

Senate Bill 535, if passed, will lengthen the hybrid permits (set to expire in January) to next July. It will also extend the special HOV access to plug-in hybrids. The thinking behind the change is to free up the carpool lanes for the newer crop of green cars. After all, the older hybrid vehicles may not emit a lot of pollution on the road, but they still take up the same amount of space in a line of traffic, and a crowded HOV lane doesn't make anyone happy.

I bike and take the subway to work. But I can imagine the jealousy of a lone gridlocked commuter staring at other single-passenger cars zipping by in the carpool lane, as well as the annoyance of co-workers crammed together in a car having to share their well-earned lane with those who are free of early morning small talk.

Fairness issues aside, if the purpose of the privilege is to encourage new sales of green cars and thus lower overall air pollution, it may be time to encourage a new set of drivers to adopt a low-carbon commute. *edit

From hybridcars.com:

Federal tax incentives for fuel-efficient cars have similarly shifted to electric vehicles—forcing conventional gas-electric hybrids to compete on an even playing ground with the rest of the automotive market. Some green car advocates question if it makes sense to remove tax credits and HOV perks from conventional fuel-efficient hybrids, which still represent less than 3 percent of the new car market.

Still, whether the special HOV access has boosted sales for hybrid vehicles, and whether they would influence purchases for all-electric cars, is uncertain. Other states—New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Florida, Colorado, Utah, and Tennessee—have similar incentives for driving emission friendlier vehicles.

Image: Flickr_/\/\ichael Patric|{
Via: MatterNetwork

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

Editorial standards