Most California Clean Air Decal Holders Losing Special HOV Lane Privilege, Unless…

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Tens of thousands of California clean air decal holders will lose their cherished “single occupant” access to the state’s carpool lanes at the end of this year – unless they buy or lease a new qualifying plug-in hybrid or zero emissions vehicle.

California legislators last year passed a bill creating a new, rolling three-year Clean Air Vehicle decal plan that eliminates eligibility for all vehicles with the green or white decals issued before Jan. 1, 2017. The stickers permit the cars to be legally operated in carpool lanes with only one occupant.

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California Clean Air Decal

The new decal program is intended to mitigate carpool lane congestion as more and more low- and zero-emission cars and trucks are sold by reducing the number of one-occupant cars entitled to use the state’s high occupancy vehicle, or HOV, lanes. Under the new rules all green and white clean air vehicle decals awarded before Jan. 1, 2019 will expire on that date.

Because California only issues the decals one time per vehicle, only qualifying vehicles purchased new since the cutoff – or older qualifying vehicles that never before had a sticker – can get one of the new decals. HOV access stickers are highly valued by urban motorists trying to cope with the state’s jammed freeways.

In the early days of the program, when conventional hybrids were allowed to participate in the California clean air decal program, used Prius models with clean air stickers typically sold for about $4,000 more in California than comparable models without the decals.

Under present rules, only plug-in hybrids, battery- and fuel-cell electric vehicles and vehicles powered by dedicated compressed natural gas engines (not bi-fuel models), are eligible for the stickers.

The state has been issuing a temporary sticker, colored red, since March 2018. Vehicle owners who have one of those are good until Jan. 1, 2022.

Owners of qualified vehicles who were issued white or green decals between Jan. 1, 2017 and March 2018, will have to apply for a new sticker that also will be good until Jan 1, 2022. Application rules and forms have not yet been published.

Stickers issued after Jan. 1 2019 will be valid until Jan. 1 of the fourth year after the year in which it was issued. Decals issued on January 1 and Dec. 31 in 2019, for instance, both would expire on Jan. 1, 2023.

None of the stickers can be renewed and unless extended by the legislature the program ends Sept. 30, 2025, when all decals issued after the start of 2022 also will expire.

5 thoughts on “Most California Clean Air Decal Holders Losing Special HOV Lane Privilege, Unless…

  1. Is it possible to inquire about an old vehicle to check if it was ever given a sticker using the VIN number? Is there a number to call for that kind of verification?

    • Just got word from the California DMV: Short answer, nope. You have to trust the seller of an unstickered but qualified car (a lot of used Teslas don’t have ’em) to be telling the truth about no previous sticker being issued.

  2. I leased an i3 in March 2018…applied for a red sticker. Just got it in July 2018 and the documentation that came with it says “Valid until Jan 2019″(!) 6 MONTHS? really?? When I look online… theres an amendment that says 2022. Ihave the clea air vehicle certificate that says jan 2019…. Does anyone know?? Did CA just typo my certificate? cuz this is wierd…. why issue a red decal on Dec 28,2018 to have it expire 2 days later on Jan 1, 2019. Anyone know??

    • Not a typo, just typical bureaucratic inability to do things simply.
      As the article above says, your sticker issued July 2018 will be good until Jan. 1, 2019. You will be able to apply for a replacement sticker sometime around then – the application period hasn’t opened yet, the DMV website should post a notice when it is – but your replacement will expire Jan. 1, 2022.
      For more information, check out the Calif. Air Resources Board site’s carpool lane section: https://www.arb.ca.gov/msprog/carpool/carpool.htm

      Repeating what TheGreenCarGuy article says:
      The state has been issuing a temporary sticker, colored red, since March 2018. Vehicle owners who have one of those are good until Jan. 1, 2022.
      Owners of qualified vehicles who were issued white or green decals between Jan. 1, 2017 and March 2018 will have to apply for the new sticker, which will be good until Jan 1, 2022. Application rules and forms have not yet been published.
      Stickers issued after Jan. 1 2019 will be valid until Jan. 1 of the fourth year after the year in which it was issued. Decals issued on January 1 and Dec. 31 in 2019, for instance, both would expire on Jan. 1, 2023.
      None of the stickers can be renewed and unless extended by the legislature the program ends Sept. 30, 2025, when all decals issued after the start of 2022 also will expire.

  3. Having bought my PHEV in 2016, and paying the premium price for the plug in, I feel that the new law is unjust in cutting off the 2016s from the car pool lane stickers. Since I bought my car, I have averaged about 77 MPG, which is great even by today’s standards. When the car pool lane stickers expire, I might just start putting gas back into the car and quit plugging it in as a protest. I have solar panels on the house and have the car set to charge during evening hours. What a shame the State wants to jeopardize these efforts.

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