SACRAMENTO, CA --- The state-issued stickers that allow 85,000 hybrid vehicle owners in California to use carpool lanes even if they're driving alone are set to expire Jan. 1, 2011. Though there are a number of legislative proposals seeking to extend the deadline, they would exclude most of the vehicles that originally qualified for the program, including the Toyota Prius, the Honda Civic hybrid and the original Honda Insight, the Los Angeles Times reported.
A 2004 law created the yellow sticker program to encourage the sale of gasoline-electric hybrids with combined city-highway mileage of 45 miles per gallon or better. The number of stickers issued was capped at 85,000.The last yellow sticker was issued in February 2007.
White stickers with the same carpool-lane privileges were issued for electric cars and vehicles running on such alternative fuels as natural gas. About 9,500 of the white stickers have been issued; there is no ceiling on the number of them that can be issued.
Both the yellow and white stickers were originally set to expire in 2008, but state legislators extended the deadline to 2011.
State lawmakers today are considering further extensions for certain vehicles. A bill introduced by Assemblyman Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) would extend the carpool lane exemption to 2016 for drivers of vehicles powered by electricity, natural gas or some other alternative fuel. The Assembly has already passed this bill. A competing Senate bill, however, included hybrids but only those with city-highway fuel economy of 65 mpg or better -- that's well above the official ratings of the current crop of hybrids.
"What we're saying is that the hybrid isn't good enough anymore," Adam Keigwin, chief of staff for Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), told the L.A. Times. Yee sponsored the Senate bill.
It remains to be seen whether lawmakers will vote to extend the deadline for the white stickers past 2011. Many of these vehicles, such as the natural-gas-powered Honda GX, are part of commercial or government fleets.