• Sep 28th 2009 at 5:59PM
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Besides the potential feeling of environmental superiority, one of the great benefits to having a hybrid in California has been the availability of a magic little sticker set for a vehicle's rear bumper and fender. The "Access OK" tags have allowed its possessors to cruise in the carpool lanes even while driving solo. The special lanes – alternatively known as HOV lanes (High Occupancy Vehicle) or diamond lanes – have proven to be a great time saver on California's clogged freeway system, but not everyone can find a ride-share partner to grant them access. Thus, getting a hybrid with one of the highly prized yellow (or white) decals is like getting yourself a free passenger – without the annoying banter.

As a result of their rarity and ultility, used cars with those decals usually command a premium. Heck, we've even reported on sticker thefts. The problem is that the benefits of those stickers were originally set to run out by 2009. The government intervened and extended those limits through January 1, 2011, but some would like to see them extended further – like through 2016.

Naturally, as more people move towards more efficient vehicles, some think the program should be halted altogether, while others (especially those with stickers themselves) continue to think that hybrids and other "clean" vehicles deserve the added benefit of solo access.You can be sure that this debate will continue right up until the deadline – unless California's legislature steps in to extend the program before then.

[Sources: The Los Angeles Times; California DMV | Image: David McNew/Getty]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      If they want to save the environment Hybrid is the wrong way to go, the Prius has a bigger carbon foot print than a Land Rover. they should go for Hydrogen like the Honda FCX Clarity.(Or whatever it was called)
        • 6 Years Ago
        Do you have a source to back this up? I am just curious. Please share so I can look it up myself. Thanks.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Actually.. after a quick search, I think I got it.

        Is this possibly the source you got your information?

        According to this, Land Rover produces 3,771 pounds of carbon in the atmosphere every year as Prius produces only 441 pounds.

        So.. what you are claiming doesn't seem to add up right.. your sources please!
      • 6 Years Ago
      You know what? Those lane should be used by the big SUVs and cars with bad fuel economy. They're the one polluting when stuck in traffic. The hybrids can be stopped for hours, they're stop and go.
      Hehe, I know it's completely unfair, but wouldn't that be the way to go?
        • 6 Years Ago
        We could be pretty picky... we could give a pass to Ram Srt-10 owners, one if you have a nice bandit trans-am, Any big block before 74 or so could go there... that'd be a nice looking lane of cars. Anyone behind me? ;)
      • 6 Years Ago
      No they should not
      • 6 Years Ago
      I will NEVER buy a hybrid. In the end, it's always the worse choice. People only think about hybrids from the time they purchase it never thinking about how much environmental damage these cars cause TO BUILD THEM. Had this article archived from a couple years ago. Interesting reading.


      Prius Outdoes Hummer in Environmental Damage

      The Toyota Prius has become the flagship car for those in our society so environmentally conscious that they are willing to spend a premium to show the world how much they care. Unfortunately for them, their ultimate "green car" is the source of some of the worst pollution in North America; it takes more combined energy per Prius to produce than a Hummer.

      The Prius is powered by not one, but two engines: a standard 76 horsepower, 1.5-liter gas engine found in most cars today and a battery- powered engine that deals out 67 horsepower and a whooping 295ft/lbs of torque, below 2000 revolutions per minute. Essentially, the Toyota Synergy Drive system, as it is so called, propels the car from a dead stop to up to 30mph. This is where the largest percent of gas is consumed. As any physics major can tell you, it takes more energy to get an object moving than to keep it moving. The battery is recharged through the braking system, as well as when the gasoline engine takes over anywhere north of 30mph. It seems like a great energy efficient and environmentally sound car, right?

      You would be right if you went by the old government EPA estimates, which netted the Prius an incredible 60 miles per gallon in the city and 51 miles per gallon on the highway. Unfortunately for Toyota, the government realized how unrealistic their EPA tests were, which consisted of highway speeds limited to 55mph and acceleration of only 3.3 mph per second. The new tests which affect all 2008 models give a much more realistic rating with highway speeds of 80mph and acceleration of 8mph per second. This has dropped the Priusís EPA down by 25 percent to an average of 45mpg. This now puts the Toyota within spitting distance of cars like the Chevy Aveo, which costs less then half what the Prius costs.

      However, if that was the only issue with the Prius, I wouldnít be writing this article. It gets much worse. Building a Toyota Prius causes more environmental damage than a Hummer that is on the road for three times longer than a Prius. As already noted, the Prius is partly driven by a battery which contains nickel. The nickel is mined and smelted at a plant in Sudbury, Ontario. This plant has caused so much environmental damage to the surrounding environment that NASA has used the "dead zone" around the plant to test moon rovers. The area around the plant is devoid of any life for miles.

      The plant is the source of all the nickel found in a Prius' battery and Toyota purchases 1,000 tons annually. Dubbed the Superstack, the plague-factory has spread sulfur dioxide across northern Ontario, becoming every environmentalistís nightmare. "The acid rain around Sudbury was so bad it destroyed all the plants and the soil slid down off the hillside," said Canadian Greenpeace energy-coordinator David Martin during an interview with Mail, a British-based newspaper.

      All of this would be bad enough in and of itself; however, the journey to make a hybrid doesn't end there. The nickel produced by this disastrous plant is shipped via massive container ship to the largest nickel refinery in Europe. From there, the nickel hops over to China to produce nickel foam. From there, it goes to Japan. Finally, the completed batteries are shipped to the United States, finalizing the around-the-world trip required to produce a single Prius battery. Are these not sounding less and less like environmentally sound cars and more like a farce?

      Wait, I haven't even got to the best part yet.

      When you pool together all the combined energy it takes to drive and build a Toyota Prius, the flagship car of energy fanatics, it takes almost 50 percent more energy than a Hummer - the Prius' arch nemesis.

      Through a study by CNW Marketing called "Dust to Dust," the total combined energy is taken from all the electrical, fuel, transportation, materials (metal, plastic, etc) and hundreds of other factors over the expected lifetime of a vehicle. The Prius costs an average of $3.25 per mile driven over a lifetime of 100,000 miles - the expected lifespan of the Hybrid.

      The Hummer, on the other hand, costs a more fiscal $1.95 per mile to put on the road over an expected lifetime of 300,000 miles. That means the Hummer will last three times longer than a Prius and use less combined energy doing it.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Seriously, this is still floating around? There have been a dozen articles since this initial 'study' that show that the kindergarten science it was based on was assumptions first and conclusions later. Expected lifespan of a hybrid at 100,000 miles, a Hummer at 300,000? I have to wonder if the first draft was in crayon...
      • 6 Years Ago
      The HOV lanes shouldn't be method-driven (hybrid), but rather results-driven (45+ mpg combined, maybe?). Otherwise you get 50mpg Metros in the regular lanes and hybrid Lexus SUVs getting crap mileage in the HOV. That's dumb.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Actually, hybird SUV's did not qualify for the stickers because they did not get good enough mileage or have good enough emissions. So the program WAS method driven.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Good! Was unaware.
      • 6 Years Ago
      What a rip,

      I used to think carpool lanes were a good idea, until I observed how clogged slow they are at random intervals.

      Hey stupid politicians and civil engineers, why construct stop gap measures when the wanted end result is a train? WHY?????

      Because like the other poster stated, government and company's can nickel and dime us to death just for wanting to go from A to B.

      Thanks you greedy myopic pin heads, Thanks.
      • 6 Years Ago
      hybrids get better mileage in lower speed stop and go than they do crusin at 70

      it it was really about the enviroment, the guy commuting in an H1 alpha would get the HOV and the hybrids would be banned from the left lane

      they should renew the law, but only for carbon free cars, hybrid tech is no longer next gen, its current and mainstream...

      but innovation isnt really the point, yall just want to keep rockin the carpool lane, get a dummy like a normal person
      • 6 Years Ago
      What the article does not mention is that there are 2 types of HOV stickers. The original is a silver sticker for natural gas cars - I saw one on a Tesla car the other day - who can explain that?!

      The other type of sticker are the gold ones, those are the ones for hybirds, and those are the ones that are set to expire, not the original silver ones.

      The natural gas cars with the silver sticker actually spew less crap into the air than a hybird - maybe that is why a Tesla can wear one? Can all electric cars wear the coveted silver sticker?
      • 6 Years Ago
      The HOV lanes in California are clogged enough as it is and I am tired of being stuck behind that arrogant @$$ in the black 2nd gen Prius with the license plate "HOV I B" driving 55mph while I am in a hurry to go somewhere else other than a smug convention.

      Besides it was an incentive to get people to accept hybrids. At over 100k units a year I think they're accepted.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Don't just let them expire -- cancel them at the end of the year. They shouldn't have been extended.
      • 6 Years Ago
      they should not be allowed to be on the HOV lane for the simple reason that they are more fuel efficient when they are running slow and moving at a snails speed lol....plus it's a matter of time that the HOV lane gets crowed with tree huger and their hybrids riding solo...The whole point of that lane is for car pooling...
      • 6 Years Ago
      Hybrids do better at low speeds and city driving anyway. Are HOV lanes any faster than just staying on the regular part of the highway? I don't regularly use a highway with them but every time I do they're always clogged because you can't pass that dolt doing 50mph when you have only 1 lane.
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