In a recent post about California new traffic laws for 2011, L.A. Streetsblog mentioned one (SB 535), which updates the status of the DMV’s two, existing, carpool lane stickers and creates a new third sticker category, permitting certain fuel-efficient, low-emission vehicles to display stickers allowing them to be operated in HOV (‘carpool’) lanes with a single occupant. Understanding what vehicles driven by solo drivers are allowed ‘in’ the freeway carpool lanes and when their stickers will expire is as easy as 1-2-3:

  1. Prior law that permitted certain fuel-efficient, low-emission vehicles to display stickers allowing them to be operated in HOV lanes with a single occupant was to expire on January 1, 2011. The new law extends the “sunset” date for the 85,000 cars with yellow stickers (the majority of the stickers currently seen on the road) for hybrid vehicles until July 1, 2011.  
  2. The white stickers issued to fully-electric and compressed natural gas vehicles will “sunset” January 1, 2015. There is currently no limit set for the number of all-electric, or zero emission vehicles that can receive white HOV access stickers.
  3. A new third sticker, for plug-in hybrid vehicles under the state’s Enhanced Advanced Technology Zero Emissions Vehicle (EAT-PZEV) designation, will be issued and valid from January 1, 2012 until January 1, 2015. It’s been reported that the DMV is considering the use of green-colored stickers for the Enhanced AT-PZEVs. A cap of 40,000 of these plug-in hybrids will be eligible to receive HOV stickers.