If you're one of the 85,000 with solo access to the HOV lane in California, it seems you should be worried.
Solo hybrid drivers may lose carpool lane privileges -- latimes.com
The stickers granting that privilege to 85,000 hybrid owners are set to expire Jan. 1, 2011. There are proposals in Sacramento to extend the deadline, but they would exclude most of the vehicles that originally qualified for the program, such as the Toyota Prius, the Honda Civic hybrid and the original Honda Insight.New Rules for Higher Gains
The proposals grant solo access to hybrid cars, but only if you get over 65 mpg or better. That's not possible with today's mass manufactured cars. The Chevy Volt and other plug-in hybrids will meet or beat those numbers, however.
In the meantime, if the stickers do expire for current hybrid car owners, it's going to mean several things.
First, you will have to get back in line with all the other solo drivers in California, which can mean you're going to be tacking on hours to your daily commute.
Second, the value of your hybrid car is about to go down. One of the quirks of the program is the sticker stays with the vehicle, not the driver. Having a sticker on your car could mean a thousand or more when you went to re-sell it. It also prompted a small boom in crime, as there were reports of people stealing the stickers.
No Longer a Need for Incentives?
There's also the wider picture. If this program was designed to encourage hybrid buyers, policy makers in California are no longer willing to push for 'normal' hybrids. In other words, hybrid cars are being recognized as mainstream vehicles. Instead, lawmakers want to encourage the next step, either all electric or at least plug-in hybrids.
And they have been feeling that way for a while now. Once the number of stickers sold was capped at 85,000, it no longer became an incentive for new hybrid car buyers.
Other Incentives Are Likely to Fade Away
It's likely that other states will follow in California's footsteps and start dropping the HOV and other privileges. So, if you're in the market for a hybrid car right now, you may want to keep that in mind. If you want the state tax break, for instance, now is the time. Not only will the HOV access be going away, but the state tax breaks are sure to follow.
One other thing. Part of the reasoning behind cutting out the hybrids from the solo access for lawmakers is to ease some of the congestion in the HOV lanes. It's unlikely hybrids are either the cause or the solution to the problem, however. At 85,000 stickers, the numbers just don't add up. Cheaters do more to congest the lanes.