California carpool access for clean-air vehicles could soon change

Without an update from Congress, people who drive hybrids and electric vehicles solo could no longer have access to HOV lanes.

People who own electric and hybrid vehicles in California have been allowed to use carpool lanes even when driving alone. 

But the program giving them that ability could be coming to an end. 


The backstory: Federal legislation was passed in 2005 to allow solo drivers in electric and hybrid vehicles to use carpool lanes. 

  • A decade later, Congress passed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, which extended the program for another 10 years and gave states the power to choose which vehicle models get carpool access. 

The big picture: Without further action from Congress, the rules over California’s carpool lanes could change in 2025. 

  • The 2015 bill given states their own discretion will expire on Sep. 29, 2025. 
  • California’s own rules governing carpool lanes – updated in 2022 – give cars with California Clean Air Vehicle decals access to HOV lanes until Sep. 30, 2025. 

State of play: There were over 411,000 cars with the Clean Air Vehicle decals in 2022, with over one million cars getting the decals since 2001, according to the LA Times. 

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