Are hybrids officially swimming in the US mainstream? A recent federal government amendment appears to imply as much, since it says that hybrid drivers won't be able to count on getting solo access to high-occupancy-vehicle (HOV) lanes. And the Prius Nation sighs.

A recently approved six-year highway-spending bill includes an amendment sponsored by Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) that would forbid states from creating new HOV-access programs for solo drivers in hybrids. States with existing programs, like Virginia, would be allowed to continue them. Plug-in hybrids, extended-range plug-in vehicles and battery-electric vehicles are safe, The Detroit News says. Heck, even compressed natural gas (CNG) and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will be able to continue to join the lonley party. For now.

Of course, hybrids-as-mainstream vehicles is old news to states such as California, long a leader in the advanced-powertrain vehicle movement. The Golden State gave out 85,000 yellow stickers that permitted hybrid drivers access to the HOV lanes no matter how many people were in the car, but they all expired in July 2011. After a slow start, California ran out of stickers that let plug-in hybrid drivers do the same earlier this year. California set a limit of 40,000 of those green stickers, which give drivers solo diamond-lane privileges through the end of 2018. The state has no limit on the number of stickers set aside for battery-electric vehicles which, like the green stickers, expire at the start of 2019.

Americans bought about 450,000 non-plug-in hybrids last year, including about 222,000 non-plug-in Toyota Prius models.


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  • 22 Comments
      Justin Banner
      • 7 Months Ago
      Or how about a law where all drivers have to follow the rules no matter what vehicle they are in? Just because you're in a hybrid or fully electric vehicle shouldn't give you the right to be in the HIGH OCCUPANCY VEHICLE lane. If you're in a car with only one person you should be in the same lane as everyone else who is single occupant, hybrid or not.
      • 4 Months Ago
      I agree with Justin. I've carpooled for the last 5 years. Sure it takes a bit of work to find a carpool buddy and to schedule meet-up points. Admittedly I have a Honda Accord and mileage isn't great. But I also don't feel like trashing my perfectly running car just to buy an electric car. I like the concept of encouraging folks to buy environmentally friendly vehicles and I will purchase one when my Honda finally gives. However, I notice that the HOV lanes are starting to get backed up in the last couple of years and one big reason is the increasing number of electric vehicles with solo drivers using the lane. In fact, I have a colleague who decided to get an electric car just so she could use the HOV lane. She admitted that she really doesn't care too much about the environment. Her primary car that she owns is a gas guzzling SUV. I'm not saying that all electric car drivers have this mentality. What I am saying is that this lane is no longer a High Occupancy Vehicle lane. It's becoming an electric car lane. Why not call it that?
      porosavuporo
      • 7 Months Ago
      So, if i dangle a power cord from my starter battery, i have a plug in hybrid, right ? And i can still drive a Vette in HOV lane ? What am i getting at is - what IS a hybrid, anyway ? Does a silly 5-mile EV range series hybrid count as a plug-in ? As long as it has a plug , its OK ?
        eric
        • 7 Months Ago
        @porosavuporo
        It's defined by government. http://www.afdc.energy.gov/laws/laws/CO/user/3260
      CoolWaters
      • 7 Months Ago
      It's about Republicans always being corporate ******, this time to oil corporations. And never about Republicans doing what's Best for America. Doing what's good for America is always at least 10X better then doing the opposite. And that's why America Grows Better Under Democrats.
      JC
      • 7 Months Ago
      I'd be inclined to leave this to the state transportation departments. Let California be California and let Oklahoma be Oklahoma.
      Spec
      • 7 Months Ago
      So the Volt in the picture is safe. Way to mislead people, Danny.
        CaptTesla
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Spec
        But it is a hybrid. GM falsely advertises it as an EV, but the government classifies it as a hybrid as it should.
          eric
          • 7 Months Ago
          @CaptTesla
          It's a PHEV; It can operate as a pure EV. Plug-in hybrids still get preferential treatment. I haven't seen GM falsely advertising the volt as an EV anywhere. All I ever hear is "An Electric car with gas, so you can go farther"
        eric
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Spec
        Came to make this exact comment. Misleading clickbait picture.
      Joeviocoe
      • 7 Months Ago
      Isn't this up to the states anyway?
        Spec
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Joeviocoe
        The Feds use funding money as a way to make states do certain things. That is just way it is. And note that this is a Republican doing this and he doesn't seem to mind. But as soon as Dem passes a similar limit you'll hear some hypocritical crowing about "state's rights".
      Anderlan
      • 7 Months Ago
      So, the fact that it comes from Inhofe and not someone else makes me pretty sure it's about screwing those who would screw big oil and not about saving money. Oh, wait, how would this be about saving money? Shenanigans.
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Anderlan
        It is about fairness. Building and upgrading roads come from tax that cars consume in gas. We should give the HOV privilege to those gas guzzlers because they are paying more tax, slow lane to the Hybrids so they can save more on gas.
          Joeviocoe
          • 7 Months Ago
          By that logic.... one should be able to gain access to the HOV lane just by driving a more expensive car... seeing that sales tax can also contribute to the coffers of road maintenance. Or... why not just put up an auction to allow the wealthy people to buy HOV access directly? Fkc the poor working middle class. They don't need to get to work on time. -------------------- It is all BS... gasoline taxes are not even enough to pay for road maintenance... taxes from everything else also contribute largely to road maintenance... and the HOV lane was NEVER intended to be a remedy for road costs nor congestion. HOV lanes were intended to encourage carpooling (a word that doesn't get said much anymore).... and carpooling wasn't to ease congestion either (since keeping an lane exclusive to a minority makes congestion worse). The WHOLE POINT is to improve air quality. So THAT is why Hybrids have been granted access. Nothing to do with fuel taxes or maintenance. HOV Lanes are to encourage people to take 'one car instead of two', or drive a car that emits like 'half a car'.
          DarylMc
          • 7 Months Ago
          If you were to apply Rotation's bang for buck theory as per capping any subsidies for EV's above $60k. Well I think antlib is on to something. Put the hybrids in the traffic jam and let the gas guzzlers pass right by to improve the clean air outcome. I jest, sorry Rotation.
      Actionable Mango
      • 7 Months Ago
      Republicans are hypocritical about state's rights (for example DOMA vs legal gay marriage in the states). But I don't think this is an example of that. Attaching conditions to money grants is not a violation of state rights, it's merely defining how you want your money spent. And Democrats are hypocritical about state's rights too, BTW. If you want to be angry about hypocrisy, there is an endless supply of it from both parties and really everyone on earth. It's human nature.
      Ryan
      • 7 Months Ago
      But electrics get better mileage in slow traffic than at fast highway speeds. So is Inhofe finally doing something to help EV drivers? ;) More people need to carpool anyways.
      CoolWaters
      • 7 Months Ago
      Go Repubs, Making America Worse for 40 Years!
        Spec
        • 7 Months Ago
        @CoolWaters
        Meh. You can't fault them for this. Hybrids are now gas guzzlers relative to electrics.
          CoolWaters
          • 7 Months Ago
          @Spec
          And relative to SUV's, the vast majority of the vehicles on the road, they are excellent. They help reduce the US trade balance, lower pollution, and are priced so that All Americans can afford some model of Hybrid. They do the Most Good, at the lowest price for society.
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