Monday, 13 September 2010 17:57

CA Extends Car Pool Lane Use for Fuel-Efficient Vehicles Until 2011

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a measure August 30 allowing tens of thousands more Californians with environmentally friendly cars to drive solo in carpool lanes according to reports made by the LA Times and 10 News San Diego.

Lawmakers worked late into the night August 30, the second to last day of the 2009-10 legislative session. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger took some action of his own, signing into law a measure expanding the list of environmentally friendly cars that qualify for permits to use carpool lanes.

The measure will allow up to 40,000 more California motorists to drive solo in the special lanes. It also extends the lifespan of existing permits for hybrid and electric vehicles. The bill, SB 535 by Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) and sponsored by General Motors, would provide thousands of permits for new models of fuel-efficient cars.

Drivers of hybrid cars who have had access to the carpool lane for the past six years will be able to drive in the lane for an additional six months. Access was originally was set to expire at the end of 2010.

The new law would not only keep the current hybrid vehicle stickers but it would also create a new sticker program for drivers of the next generation of green cars.

In the new sticker program, the first 40,000 advanced technology vehicles will gain access to the high occupancy vehicle lane during commuting hours. The new program, which would include all electric cars, hydrogen fuel cell cars and plug-in hybrids, would start in 2012 and go until 2015. In order to qualify for the advanced technology stickers, the vehicle has to be rated as an enh-ATPZEV. The requirements to earn the enh-ATPZEV label are significantly tougher than the standard ATPZEV.

The measure was opposed by some lawmakers who say carpool lanes are getting too congested because of all the special permits for solo drivers. But Yee said his bill was needed because new cars are being built with technology that was not available when the state began permitting fuel-efficient cars to use carpool lanes.

SB 535 doesn't take effect until January 1, 2012.

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