standards now allowed in state carpool lanes

Some single-occupant hybrid vehicles will now be able to use carpool lanes, provided they obtain an $8 decal from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The application form for the decal — “Reg 1000” — is available on the DMV Web site, and at DMV offices.

Hybrid gas-electric vehicles that meet tough emissions and fuel efficiency standards can use high occupancy vehicle (HOV), or carpool lanes regardless of the number of people in the vehicle, after passage of state legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Fran Pavley, whose 41st Assembly District includes Santa Monica.

Under the legislation, hybrid vehicles that would currently be eligible for carpool access include the Honda Insight, Honda Civic Hybrid and Toyota Prius.

The Pavley legislation was sponsored by state treasurer Phil Angelides and the Governor Schwarzenegger Administration.

“I am thrilled that the Schwarzenegger Administration has decided that we can allow drivers of single-occupant hybrid vehicles to use HOV lanes now,” said Pavley. “This bill is great for Californians.

“It eases our commutes, saves us money at the pump, reduces our dependency on foreign oil and cleans our air all at the same time.”

Hybrid gas-electric vehicles that will be allowed access to the carpool lanes include those that meet the state’s strictest advanced technology-partial zero emission vehicle standards and achieve 45 miles per gallon or higher.

An estimated 20,000 pre-2005 gas-electric hybrid vehicles that meet less stringent emissions criteria, but also have a 45-mile-per-gallon or higher rating would also be allowed into carpool lanes.

There are currently 1,112 miles of HOV lanes in California.

Access to state HOV lanes was restricted to vehicles carrying at least two, and in some cases three, people; zero-emission and electric and compressed natural gas vehicles; two-seater vehicles carrying two passengers; transit vehicles and motorcycles.

Vehicles that are newly eligible for access to carpool lanes will be affixed with decals similar to those currently available for electric and natural gas vehicles.

Drivers of solo-occupant hybrid vehicles will not be able to legally access HOV lanes without the decal.

The legislation will be in effect until January 1st, 2008.