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Carpool stickers for zero-emission cars still valid

June 1, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
For the past seven years, owners of certain hybrid cars have been allowed to drive solo in carpool lanes thanks to a gold sticker, but those will soon expire. There is, however, another sticker that will still be valid.

Zero-emission vehicles, including hydrogen fuel cells and battery-powered electrics, get a special white sticker.

The 2011 Honda Civic GX qualifies because it runs on compressed natural gas. It's actually been around for some time, and it is the only new internal combustion car that's eligible for the white sticker. It costs more than a regular Civic by quite a bit and has a base level interior and few amenities. You also lose trunk space due to the natural gas tanks.

But the payoff - in addition to the magic sticker - is cheap fuel. Prices vary, but the compressed gas equivalent of a gallon runs $1 to $2 less than regular unleaded, depending on where you buy it.

There's also the satisfaction of knowing your car is burning clean.

Meantime, hybrid owners with the yellow stickers are enjoying carpool lane freedom for a dwindling number of days. On July 1, those stickers will expire for good and the benefit to drivers of cars that have them will end.

"It's heartbreaking. I commute from La Canada to El Segundo every day, and I really rely on that carpool lane," said Levent Akbarut, a Toyota Prius owner.

The program began seven years ago to encourage sales of hybrid cars, which were a somewhat new technology at the time.

The Department of Motor Vehicles stopped issuing the stickers in 2006 when a cap was reached. They were never meant to be permanent, and this is actually the end of an additional six-month extension.

Many hybrid owners said they'll still hold on to their cars once the sticker expires.

"I'm probably going to join a carpool or arrange for some other alternate hours at work," said Akbarut.