Plug-In Hybrid Carpool Stickers Could Prematurely Hit Limit

By · November 20, 2012

Chevy Volt in the carpool lane.

Chevy Volt in the carpool lane.

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.

Comments

· · 1 year ago

The green HOV sticker is only good until 2015, not for the life of the car. I'm hoping they will extend both the green & white sticker programs past then.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 1 year ago

Well, I think the stickers for the PHEVs are a little dubious, especially for the PiP. Because in theory, these people could never plug-in these vehicles at all and just buy them for the sticker. But I kinda doubt people would do that since you'll save money by plugging in.

· · 1 year ago

I am not sure how they could "prematurely" hit a limit which is defined as 40,000. Whenever you hit the 40,000 that is the time which you hit the limit by definition. You can't hit the 40,000 limit *before* you hit the 40,000 limit...

· Anton Wahlman (not verified) · 1 year ago

BMW is exempted from this rule/law: http://www.thestreet.com/story/11766466/1/bmw-cuts-off-toyota-gm-and-for...

· Modern Marvel Fan (not verified) · 1 year ago

40,000 is a lot stickers for the next 2 years.

First of all, most Volt owners who qualify for it don't even apply for it. About the half the Volt in CA that I see don't have the stickers on. Just about EVERY Prius Plugin have the green sticker in CA. At one point, it was the cheapest vehicle to get that sticker in CA. Now that title goes to Ford C-Max Energi.

Even with 30,000 stickers left, it would take 15,000 per year sales to fill up the sticker program before it expires. That is a lot of Volt, Pip, C-Max Energi, Fusion Energi and Accord plugin. Only 1/3 of all Volt sales are in CA.

I don't think we should worry about it until it gets close...

· Modern Marvel Fan (not verified) · 1 year ago

@Anton Wahlman,
"BMW is exempted from this rule/law:"

Touting your own article, huh? Anyway, your point is valid assuming that BMW gets that exemption for sure, which we don't know yet. If it is true, then GM can easily upgrade the Volt to a "claimed" 60 miles EV (using the entire 16.5KWh battery instead of just the 10.5KWh). Then shrink the gas tank down to 1.5 gallon. Then, you will have an effective "120 miles EV". Just to avoid the branding, GM can even call it Cruze EV...

I can't see how people don't sue CARB for this silly exemption. It is probably a better approach if BMW allow the engine to use CNG instead of gasoline to qualify for the white sticker...

Also, a 100 miles EV plus a range extender will greatly increase the price to at least $60k range for BMW. (3.5 miles per KWh would require a 30 KWh battery) That is easily within the low end of the Tesla S price.

The buyers will be few and in between. So far, people who buy cars for "stickers" are mostly concentrated on the Prius Plugin where it is the cheapest entry (with gas engine) to access in HOV lanes. About half of the Volt I see don't even have the stickers... C-Max Energi will become the lowest priced green sticker vehicle.

I seriously doubt that BMW can price anything below $50k for their solution...

· · 1 year ago

Before the green stickers were available, the white sticker was definitely a consideration for me in buying a Leaf instead of a Volt.

· · 1 year ago

"Also, a 100 miles EV plus a range extender will greatly increase the price to at least $60k range for BMW. (3.5 miles per KWh would require a 30 KWh battery) That is easily within the low end of the Tesla S price."

No it definitely won't be at least $60k. Plus the i3 doesn't require a 30kWh battery to achieve a 100 mile range because it will be much more efficient than 3.5 miles per kWh, even under the EPA 5 cycle test conditions. The BEV i3 will start in the mid 40's ($43,000 to $46,000). They haven't announced pricing for the range extender but it will not even approach 60K as you predict. I suspect it will either be under $50,000 or slightly above.

If things do go as they appear to be headed, the i3 with the range extender will be the only PHEV that qualifies for the new Green HOV access sticker criteria. The current 40,000 allotment will be reached by the end of 2013 and the new regs will likely begin in early 2014.

· Modern Marvel Fan (not verified) · 1 year ago

"No it definitely won't be at least $60k. Plus the i3 doesn't require a 30kWh battery to achieve a 100 mile range because it will be much more efficient than 3.5 miles per kWh, even under the EPA 5 cycle test conditions. "

Name me one EV that is 100 miles + rated in the EPA cycle that doesn't have at least 30KWh battery.... Just name me one. We don't have even brought up the heat and A/C issues yet. For a BMW, it will also come with decent performance, which will rub off some of that range rating as well.

Even the Tesla build Toyota RAV4 without range extender cost about $50k before rebates/incentives.

Will you admit you are wrong if i3 with range extender cost over $60k before rebates? I will admit that I am wrong if it cost less. I seriously doubt it. Not until there are some miracle battery breakthrough...

If the i3 extender actual goes for $60k before

· · 1 year ago

"Will you admit you are wrong if i3 with range extender cost over $60k before rebates? I will admit that I am wrong if it cost less. I seriously doubt it. Not until there are some miracle battery breakthrough..."

Yes I certainly will. However I have to point out I believe the EPA rating will be slightly under 100mpc, like 93 to 95. I suppose you may be able to load up the car with every available option and the range extender and push it up to 60k, but you will definitely be able to order one with the range extender for well under 60k. In fact, if its even more than 55k, I'll give it to you.

You are right, there aren't any cars with under 30kWh that can consistently go 100mpc. However that doesn't mean the i3 won't be the first. Stay tuned... :)

· Joule_Thief (not verified) · 1 year ago

@Modern Marvel Fan re: "First of all, most Volt owners who qualify for it don't even apply for it. About the half the Volt in CA that I see don't have the stickers on."

That would be because over half the Volt's on the road don't qualify for the sticker. Volt's didn't get the CA emmisions package until late in the 2012 MY, so only late 2012 and 2013 Volts qualify for the sticker.

@Anonymous re "Well, I think the stickers for the PHEVs are a little dubious, especially for the PiP. Because in theory, these people could never plug-in these vehicles at all and just buy them for the sticker. But I kinda doubt people would do that since you'll save money by plugging in."

True, but Voltstats.net shows that the median for Volt drivers in CA drive 82% in all electric mode based on real world data. I have to agree with you on the PiP, however. Even if they do plug in, only 6-11 miles will be electric. And I have heard directly from some PiP owners that they only bought for the sticker and will rarely charge. Perhaps CA should have put a min battery size, say 5 or 7.5kWh...

· · 1 year ago

"Perhaps CA should have put a min battery size, say 5 or 7.5kWh"

It appears that CA is going in a different direction for PHEV HOV access. As the article that Anton Wahlman above referenced (his article I might add), it appears California is poised to change the rules for PHEV qualification so that the electric range of the car must be equal to or greater than the range the car has when in charge sustaining mode.

There are currently no PHEV's that will qualify. Wahlman points out that the upcoming BMW i3 with the range extender option would be the only range extended plug in car to qualify since the i3 is going to have an AER of roughly 100 miles and a very small 2 cylinder, 600cc gas engine with only about a 2 gallon gas tank. Therefore the AER will be ~100 miles and the range extender will add about 90 miles range.

· Modern Marvel Fan (not verified) · 1 year ago

"That would be because over half the Volt's on the road don't qualify for the sticker. Volt's didn't get the CA emmisions package until late in the 2012 MY, so only late 2012 and 2013 Volts qualify for the sticker."

Actually, not true. I personally know at least 8 Volt owners. Every one of them are 2012/2013 modeles that qualify for the sticker. Only 3 out of those 8 Volt owners have the stickers... The rest of them don't want it b/c they don't need it and it is "ugly" to put them on their "beloved" Volt.

I know that Chevy advertise it heavily. But those Volt have been available since Feb 2012. About 1/3 of the all the Volts are sold in CA. That would be estimated about at least 5,000 Volts alone in CA for the 2012 and 2013 models. The Volt stickers are NO WHERE close to that number. Just about every Bay Area and LA region Chevy dealers are selling the HOV access Volts. No dealers in CA want the non-HOV Volt. In fact, most of the Non-HOV Volt were cleared out by April and May for a huge discount...

Now, PIP were the cheapest HOV access car that is why most of it have it. In fact, I don't know a single PIP owner who didn't own a Prius before that. They just missed their "old yellow" sticker and want the green one.

As far as access goes, it is NOT zero emission, but rather AT-PZEV. Prius Plugin is the "least capable" of the bunch. I agree that it is a "green scam". But blame CARB instead of Toyota. Toyota just took advantage of the "system" by making a scam car for the stickers.

· · 1 year ago

So what is the difference that made the 2013 volt qualify for the sticker, and my 2011 volt does not? Smaller gas tank?

· · 1 year ago

For the Volt, the "Low emissions package" is required to get the sticker.

"Green Clean Air Vehicle Stickers are available to the first 40,000 applicants that purchase or lease cars meeting California's Enhanced Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emission Vehicle (AT PZEV) requirement."

· · 1 year ago

Bill, as Jose posted above initially the Volt didn't qualify because the gas engine didn't meet CA's emission standard, so basically it wasn't low enough. Then in 2012 GM came out with the Low emissions package (basically for California) and when equipped with this package the emissions are low enough to qualify for the HOV access sticker. CA created 40,000 of these green stickers and when the 40,000 is gone, then they need to decide on what qualifications they will have for future PHEV's to have HOV access. They will undoubtedly make the standard tougher and some (as Anton Wahlman above wrote) believe the qualification for PHEV's will be the car must have a greater AER than it's range when in charge sustaining mode and the ICE is running in addition to being a SLEV (super low emission vehicle).

· · 1 year ago

Bill, the difference is that GM added an air pump into the exhaust stream in late 2012MY which enabled the Volt ot meet the AT PZEV requirements in CA. Unfortunately this change cannot be retrofitted onto older Volts. CA DMV can tell by your VIN number if you have this upgrade or not.

Modern Marvel Fan, I don't think any of us have data to say exactly how many of the Volts that do qualify for the sticker have gotten one. And it is true that all of the 2011s and about half of the 2012s do not qualify so you are bound to see Volts on the road without a sticker for this fact alone. Every Volt owner in CA I know that has a qualifying Volt does have a sticker. You can't really judge all of CA based on 8 Volts or what you personaly observe in your local area. However, I can understand why some wouldn't get the sticker if they don't need it. When I lived in CA last year I commuted along Hwy17 from Santa Cruz to San Jose which has no carpool lane so in my case there would have been little benefit. But that would have nothing to do with me owning a Volt. I'm sure that would be the case for many regardless of which particular AZ PZEV car they happen to own. Also, the PiP is not significantly cheaper than a Volt when factoring in the tax credit. A base PiP is $2k less than a base Volt and a loaded PiP Advanced is actually $2k more than a fully loaded Volt!

· Modern Marvel Fan (not verified) · 1 year ago

"That would be because over half the Volt's on the road don't qualify for the sticker. Volt's didn't get the CA emmisions package until late in the 2012 MY, so only late 2012 and 2013 Volts qualify for the sticker."

Actually Volt with AT-PZEV was available in March 2012. The dealers that doesn't have those Volts cleared out inventory by late May....

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