Between the tax breaks and the social status boosts, California's car shoppers have plenty of reasons to consider electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. But given the traffic congestion in the state's major cities, perhaps no perk has been more attractive than HOV lane access.
In case you missed it, California allows owners of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles to travel solo in the HOV or "carpool" lane, provided their car carries the proper sticker. (Green stickers are for hybrids and extended-range electrics like the Chevrolet Volt that have zero-emission capability; white stickers are for fully electric vehicles like the Nissan Leaf and the Tesla Model S.)
The HOV lane program has been very, very successful, but it was set to to expire on January 1, 2015. As we mentioned back in May, the California legislature has been considering a bill to extend that deadline to 2018 for plug-in hybrids and 2020 for electrics.
According to our colleagues at Green Car Reports, it appears that lawmakers have now split the difference, passing a bill that allows both HOV lane programs to sunset in 2019. The bill is en route to Governor Jerry Brown, who's expected to sign it.
There's no denying that fuel-efficient rides like the Volt and the Leaf are the future of travel. It may take years to transition away from petroleum, but that day is surely coming.
And that's fine. As long as we don't have to sacrifice fun or power, we're completely okay with this clean, green, brave new world. But some of us still need a bit of prodding to get there.
HOV lane programs like the one in California are a great way of accomplishing that task through simple, cost-effective incentives. They don't require massive sums of support, they make use of existing infrastructure, and they give drivers something they desperately want: a faster way to get from Point A to Point B. They work for consumers, they work for the state: it's pretty hard to see a downside.