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Hybrid Cars Getting Bumped from Carpool Lanes

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on July 21, 2011 12:43 PM

No longer able to drive solo in the state's carpool lanes, eighty-five thousand California hybrid owners may be questioning their choice of vehicle right about now.

Determining that the public no longer needs an incentive to purchase hybrid vehicles, state regulators allowed its hybrid carpool permitting system to expire, tossing Prius owners back into the throngs of bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Could this happen elsewhere?

To answer this question, it's important to understand that California isn't getting rid of carpool permits altogether; it's merely shifting its focus to different technology.

With so many hybrids in the state, the Wall Street Journal reports that the Air Resources Board feels that it's time to encourage people to purchase newer, more efficient technology.

This means that, starting in January 2012 (and ending in 2015), people who purchase plug-in hybrids and natural gas or all-electric vehicles will receive permits that allow them to cruise carpool lanes alone.

Though the paper reports that a few other states are reevaluating hybrid carpool permits, it's California's unique situation that makes it the only state likely to scrap the hybrid permits altogether.

In 2006, legislators passed the Global Warming Solutions Act, which sets a 2020 reduction goal that must be achieved through regulation, market mechanisms, and other incentives.

Focusing much of its efforts on car emissions, it only makes sense that the state would choose to restructure its incentive system so that the public adopts newer, more efficient technology.

Even if it is to the detriment of California hybrid owners.

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