Carpool lane opening up to more drivers

SACRAMENTO When the state allowed permits for solo drivers in "green," or environmentally friendly, cars to use high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, there was such a rush to get the permits the state had to cut off the number of people who could get them. So no more permits were allowed. They were sold out. This new law changes that.

The governor signed into law Assembly Bill 1500, which would put some 40,000 more drivers with environmental friendly cars right there in those carpool lanes with you.

The bill written by state Senator Leland Lee (D-San Francisco) and sponsored by GM will provide thousands of permits for new models of fuel-efficient cars, including GM's Chevrolet Volt due out later this year, as well as the new Toyota Prius and the Nissan Leaf.

"It's going to improve our air quality," said Lee. "These are the new generations of hybrids, of fuel-efficient cars, of plug-in hybrids. In addition, hybrid fuel-cell cars. So it's a tremendous boon to all the way around."

Some lawmakers oppose expanding the number of drivers in carpool lanes.

Those with HOV permits for hybrid and electric cars paid about $25 to get them. Lawmakers expect the stickers for the new line of green cars to cost around the same price or slightly more.

Hybrid car owners who already have a yellow sticker allowing them access to the carpool lane will also be given a six-month extension. The stickers were originally set to expire at the end of this year.

Owners of all-electric vehicles with white stickers will receive a four-year extension.

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