Access to HOV lanes in California has been a powerful non-financial incentive that helps drivers make the switch to a plug-in electric vehicle (PEV). Nevertheless, California amended its HOV lane policy so that decals are now only eligible to remain on the PEVs for three years, after which the PEV is no longer eligible for the HOV lane.
This policy change is to the detriment of many Californians, particularly early adopters of PEVs. Drivers who purchased a car before January 1, 2017 will be kicked out of HOV lanes starting in January 2019. Any driver who is issued a decal between January 1, 2017 and January 1, 2019 will be able to access the HOV lane until January 1, 2022, though the driver will need to be sure the proper decals are displayed for the time between 2017-2019 and 2019-2022.
Despite the fact that CalTrans stated they are not concerned with PEV drivers congesting the HOV lanes and despite the hard work of Plug In America to amend this bill, the automakers shoved it through the Legislature.
Plug In America is working hard to grandfather in early adopters who have the HOV decal into the new policy, so that early adopters can access the HOV lane until January 1, 2022. Early adopters shouldn’t be punished for having purchased a vehicle more expensive than a regular gas vehicle, while providing clean air benefits to all Californians.
This policy change is also harmful to those in disadvantaged communities who often have longer commutes to work and would benefit from HOV lane access. Consumers in disadvantaged communities are also more likely to buy a used PEV, usually after the car’s HOV decal has expired. A new bill proposes that low-income drivers be able to apply for a HOV decal, even if the PEV already had one; Plug In America is advocating that this policy also be amended to allow all drivers of a used PEV to apply for an HOV decal.
For more information on the current HOV lane policy for PEV drivers, visit the California Air Resources Board website.