Prius out, ELR in with changing HOV landscape

Arizona Kicks Out Hybrids, But PHEVs, Pure EVs Still Qualify

Out with the sort-of-old, in with the new-ish. The Arizona Department of Transportation has updated its list of vehicles that can legally drive in the high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane no matter how many people are in the car. The changes show us how the green car landscape is changing.

Only 587 Energy Efficient plates have been issued so far.

Standard hybrids like the Toyota Prius and the Honda Insight are now relegated back to the normal traffic lanes while most any car with a plug has been given the green light to cruise around Phoenix in HOV style. There are now nine plug-in vehicles on the list of eligible EVs that can get an Energy Efficient license plate: BMW i3 with Range Extender, Cadillac ELR, Chevy Volt, Fisker Karma, Ford C-MAX Energi and Fusion Energi, Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid, Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid and the Toyota Prius Plug-In.

You might think that vehicles like the Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model S and the pure EV version of the i3 are missing, but they not. They just quality for the Alternative Fuel license plate, which offers the HOV benefit but doesn't have a limit on the number of plates Arizona will assign. There is a 10,000-unit cap for the Energy Efficient plates (only 587 have been issued so far).

Anyone driving a normal hybrid with an Energy Efficient plate will be allowed to keep driving in the HOV lanes "until they sell/transfer the vehicle," the Arizona DOT says. If that driver then buys a new qualifying vehicle, the plate can be transferred. If not, then, "the owner must surrender the license plate to any MVD or Authorized Third Party (ATP) office." The Arizona Republic talked to current non-plug Prius drivers who say they don't necessarily want to upgrade to the more expensive plug-in version, but that's just the new the cost to not bother coordinating a carpool in the first place.

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