Prius owners lose their cushy carpool lane pass July 1st

Prius owners lose their cushy carpool lane pass July 1st

Due to its homegrown car culture, California has been working hard to get drivers to adopt green cars like Toyota’s Prius. Some cities offered free parking to Prius owners and the state even bent the rules when it came to the carpool or “High Occupancy Vehicle” (HOV) lane. With the arrival of the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt, Prius owners are being pushed out of the carpool lane to make room for the new kids on the block.

Back in 2005 the state started handing out little yellow stickers that let solo Prius drivers zoom to their next location in the carpool lane. If you’ve never had the distinct pleasure of trying to navigate the 405 or some of the highways in the Bay Area, they are some of the most congested in the country. In fact, the Los Angeles area has won the title of most congested city for four years straight. That’s why it’s no surprise that some Prius’ that hit the used car market with the sticker sold at a premium and some enterprising thieves even swiped them off of cars.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) outlined the upcoming change:

Effective July 1, 2011, owners of hybrid clean air vehicles displaying yellow Clean Air Vehicle (CAV) decals will no longer be able to operate their vehicle in a high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane unless the minimum passenger requirements are met. After July 1, 2011, use of an HOV lane, without the minimum required passengers, may subject the driver to a citation.

California is serious about deterring these hybrid owners from taking up valuable real estate on the highway; almost 85,000 Prius owners will be subject to this citation that translates into a $450.00 fine.

Not wanting to lose the convenience of driving in the carpool lane, many Prius owners are looking toward cars that qualify for the new green and white stickers such as the Nissan Leaf. But others car buyers are looking past EVs to cars that run on compressed natural gas (CNG) such as Honda’s Civic GX. CNG powered cars are quite popular in countries like Italy but they aren’t that well known in the US. The Los Angeles Times reported that the average price for a gallon of CNG is about $2.25 and most Angelenos are paying about $4.28 a gallon. Besides cutting the pain at the pump, the carpool approved Civic is also cheaper than other hybrids like Chevy’s Volt and retails for $25,490.

The Prius may have kick-started the green car movement, but technology has certainly improved since its introduction. With high gas prices the idea of abandoning the gas pump entirely is a nice idea to a lot of Americans. Hopefully Prius owners will get back in the HOV lane when the company launches the EV edition with a little help from Tesla.