Plug-In Hybrid Carpool Stickers Could Prematurely Hit Limit
California is continuing to stoke sales for electrics and plug-in hybrids by offering the vehicles access to the state’s highly sought after carpool lanes. The stickers allow drivers into these HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes even when driving solo. While there are no limits on the number of white stickers issued to pure EVs, the total allotment of green stickers for owners of plug-ins could hit its limit of 40,000—just as the plug-in hybrid market starts to gain momentum. By early October, California has already issued roughly 5,600 green stickers for plug-in hybrids. And in October, nearly 5,000 more plug-in hybrids were sold throughout the U.S., with California serving as the biggest market.
The rate of sales for plug-in hybrids, such as the Chevy Volt and Prius Plug-in Hybrid, is outpacing sales of pure electrics, like the Nissan LEAF. And new plug-in hybrids—including the Ford C-Max Energi, Ford Fusion Energi, and Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid—will soon come to market. These plug-in vehicles use a small internal combustion engines once battery power is depleted.
It’s uncertain how legislators will react, and how the market will respond, if the green stickers quickly hit the limit. “There could be a shift to EVs when the 40,000 plug-in hybrid vehicle stickers run out, however we also anticipate legislation to add more PHEVs,” explained Jay Friedland, legislative director of Plug In America.
The green stickers are good for the life of the vehicle and can be transferred from owner to owner (though not from one car to another).
The expiration date for White Clean Air Vehicle Stickers, available to full-electrics like the Nissan LEAF and Honda Fit EV, was recently extended to January 1, 2015.
“The HOV stickers work very well” in terms of spurring sales of electric vehicles, said Friedland. California’s previous HOV sticker programs—yellow stickers initially used to promote hybrid vehicles like the Toyota Prius and Honda Civic Hybrid—helped offer “a non-monetary incentive which is potentially worth up to $5,000.” Hybrid models granted one of the 85,000 available HOV stickers, originally offered from August 2005, ended up being worth more on the used car market than identical models without the carpool sticker. The value comes with time savings, as drivers reduce their commute times, in some cases by an hour or more per day.
Friedland believes the new green sticker program is already proving to be a success. “Actually both full EVs and PHEVs are benefiting from the HOV stickers in California. Look at last month's sales numbers,” said Friedland. PHEVs like the Chevrolet Volt and Toyota Prius Plug-In recorded their best sales month ever in October.
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