California's green carpool lane sticker is slow to get going

California HOV Access OK Off To A Slow Start

California's HOV "Access OK" for next generation of clean-air cars, Plug-In Hybrid, PHEV and electric cars, EV might seem off to a slow start, but are estimates a little too optimistic?

Certainly we can all agree on one thing. Estimates as to early adoption of plug-in hybrids and electric cars were too optimistic and didn’t reflect the current economic reality of drivers. One of the reasons would most likely be that these estimates were based on an economic reality rooted in an unsustainable last decade where growth was projected to never end. We now should know a little better. And while wallets are shy to open, as long as the future remains as uncertain as Wall Street’s ups and downs, they might stay this way.

California HOV Green Car Program. The Californian HOV “Access OK” program was created to let next generation of clean-air cars drive in car pool lanes, regardless of how many people. Quietly launched less than a year ago in January, state officials hoping car dealerships would advertise have had mixed results. With less than 4,000 stickers issued as of early August, the numbers from California Department of Motor Vehicles pale compared to the 85,000 yellow car-pool lane stickers ordered between 2004 and 2007 for hybrid cars. The old program expired last year in July 2011.

To be fair, the new program expires January 1, 2015 and has 40,000 stickers. 36,000 left to give in 2 years, considering the introduction of Ford’s C-MAX plug-in hybrid, which I will have the chance to drive alone on Friday, as well as Toyota’s Prius plug-in hybrid, along others, shouldn’t be too difficult. So far, according to the Californian DMV data as of Aug. 3, 2,643 stickers were issued to Prius Plug-In and 1,114 to Volt owners.

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Why Is It So Important? Unless you live in Los Angeles, or along other busy highways in California, this might not mean much to you. Most cars are single occupants stuck in an endless sea of fume belching vehicles driving at low speed. Seeing the state’s carpool lane open to alternative energy vehicle is motivation for many. The state has had very mitigated results in turning some of these HOV lanes into pay access, which has angered many commuters.

One program that has also some success is the other white sticker system allowing electric cars to drive on the state’s carpool lanes. So are those programs a failure? Most likely not. Is adoption slow? That depends where you base the numbers and expectations. Are those programs enough to get people to purchase alternative energy cars? In and of itself, probably not but California’s “Access OK” for plug-in hybrids and its other electric car only White Clean Air Vehicle Stickers can only help in the long run.