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USA: Green carpool stickers could hit 40,000 limit in a few months

If you’re coveting a green sticker for your plug-in hybrid so you can drive solo in the carpool lane, don’t dither.

More than 70 percent of the 40,000 that will be issued are already gone, leading state officials to predict that the limit could be reached this summer.

“At the rate they’re going, I wouldn’t be surprised,” said Dan Lieberman, press secretary to state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Mateo, one of the authors of the sticker proposal.

As of Jan. 1, 28,739 green decals have been mailed to owners of vehicles meeting California’s partial zero-emission vehicle requirements, such as the Chevy Volt, the Ford C-Max Energi or the plug-in Toyota Prius. That’s nearly double the 15,972 green decals that had been issued as of July, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Prius Plug-in Hybrid
Prius Plug-in Hybrid (Koji Sasahara / AP)

All-electric cars such as the Nissan Leaf and Tesla or those running on alternative fuels qualify for white stickers for diamond lane privileges. So far, 39,804 white decals have been issued, up from 29,427 six months earlier. But unlike green stickers, there is no cap on the number of white stickers.

Applications for stickers heated up when a bill by Yee extended the program from 2015 until 2019. With congestion on Bay Area freeways mounting at a rate not seen since the dot-com boom 15 years ago, going solo in the carpool lane could shave real time off anyone’s commute for five years to come.

“Five years gives this benefit to drivers for a long time,” said Felix Kramer, an electric vehicle advocate and the founder of CalCars.

In addition, prices for these vehicles are falling. The Nissan Leaf is $6,000 less expensive this year than in 2012, according to IHS Automotive. Leaf sales rose 130 percent in the U.S. from 2012 to 2013.

And numerous other plug-ins and EVs are less costly than two years ago. A study by Indiana University found that 9 of 10 car buyers weren’t aware of a federal $7,500 tax credit, plus a $2,500 rebate in states such as California.

Lower prices, the carpool perk and today’s terrible traffic means sales are heating up, and that’s fueling a green sticker rush.
mercur
All this and allowing solo drivers with FasTrak to buy their way into express lanes at Highway 237, Interstate 880 and I-680 means even diamond lanes are filling up.
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