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California’s green HOV-lane access stickers are running out fast

One of the notable perks of buying an electric vehicle in California has been the coveted right to drive in the high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane even without passengers. Soon, though, there will be no more green stickers left for new owners of plug-in hybrids.


The HOV lane access sticker program has helped drive EV sales in traffic-choked California. The program runs through January 1, 2019, and offers two different colors of sticker that grant HOV lane access for single-occupant vehicles. White stickers are unlimited and can only be applied to pure battery electric vehicles while green stickers, of which only 40,000 were allotted, can be applied to eligible plug-in hybrids like the Chevrolet Volt and Ford C-Max Energi.

As of March 21, only 3,263 green stickers remain up for grabs and they are expected to be gone within a little more than a month at the current pace. In response to the dwindling supply of stickers, last week the California DMV ended the Green HOV Sticker Advance Purchase Program that had allowed car dealers to apply for the green stickers. Previously, dealers would pre-register for the decals and stick them on their vehicles on the lot to encourage sales at a higher profit through the added incentive of hassle-free immediate HOV access.

What does this mean for prospective EV owners in California? The suspension of dealer rights to the green stickers (auto dealers can still apply for white stickers) will allow customers debating a plug-in hybrid a little more time to make their decision, but that time is running out. It also very likely means that few BMW i3 owners who opt for the range-extended version will be getting HOV access as the vehicle hits US dealerships in late April, right around the time that the last green sticker will be sold.

On the bright side, there are unlimited white stickers up for grabs for those brave enough to purchase a pure electric vehicle. With the established and expanding charging infrastructure in the Golden State, it is definitely worth considering.