There's a bit of a traffic jam building for those High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) stickers designed to help plug-in hybrid vehicle drivers in California avoid, uh, traffic jams. The stickers in question are of the green variety and they're doled out by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to let such drivers cruise down the HOV lanes solo. And they're running out. Fast.

Of the 40,000 green stickers slated for distribution, more than 36,200 were spoken for by March 12, Inside EVs says. And with 8,000 stickers getting gobbled up since the beginning of the year, the rest will likely be gone by tax day. That monthly rate is a far cry from 2012, when less about 500 green stickers were being given out to a then-smaller contingent of plug-in drivers. Ever-green, no more.

"The car pool lane stickers have been a significant incentive," said Plug In America Chief Science Officer Tom Saxton. He added that the group would try to work with the state at further expanding such incentives for plug-in vehicle drivers. CARB representatives didn't immediately respond to a request from AutoblogGreen for comment.

CARB does have an unlimited number of white stickers, which are earmarked for zero-emissions vehicles, but the green-sticker dilemma is especially relevant for automakers such as BMW, which has not yet started selling its i3 plug-in vehicle. While the pure battery-electric version will get the white sticker, there will also be i3s with a gas-powered range-extender on board (i.e. the REx version). And while Bimmer tried to keep those gas motors small enough to possibly qualify for white stickers (by making the gas range is smaller than the electric range), that didn't work. BMW told AutoblogGreen that all REx i3s will qualify for the green stickers when it arrives this summer, but if there are no stickers left, then it's a moot point.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 13 Comments
      ChrisH
      • 9 Months Ago
      So BMW tried to game the system by purposefully reducing the usefulness of the i3 and derived no benefit? Good. Engineering should beat marketing, hopefully this means they will fix the i3 so that it has better gasoline range. It would be nice to use it like a Volt, as take out of state family trips without stopping every two hours
        Spec
        • 9 Months Ago
        @ChrisH
        It would probably not be nearly as good as the Volt for long drives since the ICE is a bit underpowered. But it would work as long as you don't mind climbing up big hills at a slow pace. By what I understand, it cruises just fine at freeway speeds with the ICE on flat ground.
        Rotation
        • 9 Months Ago
        @ChrisH
        They still get BEVx CARB credits. These are "gold" credits, the same as for a BEV. Even though a BEVx has a tailpipe. "Fixing" the i3 to have better gasoline range would eliminate these credits, so it probably won't happen.
        itsme38269
        • 9 Months Ago
        @ChrisH
        You mean fix the i3 by leaving out the gas engine?
        Actionable Mango
        • 9 Months Ago
        @ChrisH
        I've never believed the theory that BMW crippled the i3 sold worldwide just for CA carpool permits. They could have easily made a CA-specific model without crippling the rest-of-the-world model by simply making a reduced capacity gas tank for CA. To say that the design, engineering, and manufacturing of the car revolved around one State's carpool stickers, for which there is only a very limited amount, just seems beyond ridiculous to me.
          Actionable Mango
          • 9 Months Ago
          @Actionable Mango
          Oh I can easily believe the CARB credits theory, that a MUCH stronger case. There are entire compliance cars made just for the purpose of complying with the law. Designing a car around a limited number of carpool-enabling permits available in a single state is a completely different issue. I think it was a happy coincidence for which the timing didn't work out.
          Spec
          • 9 Months Ago
          @Actionable Mango
          Who knows? But if Rotation above is correct then they still get the CARB credits. And those are relevant for all the other states that follow the CARB rules as well. And California itself is a very big car market and certainly the biggest EV market due to the CARB regulations, incentives, mild weather, people that want the EVs, and people with lots of money.
      Linux64
      • 9 Months Ago
      Utah has a similar program, and they have just basically run out: From: http://www.udot.utah.gov/main/f?p=100:pg::::1:T,V:2280 As of March 21, 2014: 5,991 C Decals have been issued. 9 C Decals are available to be issued. 42 Applications in process.
      Spec
      • 9 Months Ago
      Damn . . . I wanted to pick up a PHEV before all the stickers are gone but I won't be ready to buy one until they are all gone. I guess I'll just have to get another pure electric. :-) (Come on someone, make one with a bigger battery that is affordable.)
      • 4 Months Ago
      The good news is that California upped their quota from 40,000 to 55,000 stickers in July 2014. But the main problem seems to be that we are never quite sure of the rate at which these stickers are issued, so it's a guessing game about when the last one will be issued! I finally figured out this problem ... I calculated the rate by looking at earlier versions of the California Air Resources Board website, and made a graph that projects the date when the current quota of 55,000 stickers will be gone. Per my projection that will happen is early October 2014. You can read about my analysis and see the graph on my blog here: http://www.greenthensolar.com/2014/07/the-question-on-everyones-mind-trying.html Hope this helps people buying hybrid-electric cars!
      Mal
      • 9 Months Ago
      From the Good Intent but Bad Follow Through Department of California. Issuing HOV stickers to hybrids was a moronic idea in the first place. The hybrid design is least efficient at highway speeds. The battery and regenerative braking do best in traffic and mileage is actually higher in these conditions. So what do the politicians do, they choose a "reward" that negates many of the benefits of owning a vehicle like this. Brilliant.
        Spec
        • 9 Months Ago
        @Mal
        Hybrids have not qualified for HOV lane stickers for several years now so your point is moot. But people who drive on freeways also drive on surface streets . . . it is not like anyone ONLY drives freeways. The point was to reward efficient and alternative fuel cars (including natural gas). But I agree a bit with your sentiment . . . I don't think the Plug-In Prius should have qualified because it can't go freeway speed without the gas engine. The Volt can. (I don't know about the Energi cars . . . can someone chime in?)
          Rotation
          • 9 Months Ago
          @Spec
          Energis can go freeway speeds without the gas engine, but you have to be careful with the pedal, especially getting on and off the highway. Also, if you need heat, the engine will turn on, so in the cold months you're gonna use gas either way.
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