I did a double-take when I read about changes for hybrid car owners in the californiascapitol website.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recently signed a new law (SB 535) that basically allows 40,000 electric cars to use HOV lanes beginning next January.
But what I think tens of thousands of current hybrid car owners don't know is, is that they'll be prohibited from using High Occupancy Vehicle lanes in July 2011.
What? Aren't we suppose to be encouraging people to go green? They were among the first to buy vehicles that cut down on pollution in the air? And now they'll have the privilege taken away from them?
The bill, by the way, is sponsored by General Motors, which plans to begin selling it's Chevy Volt later on this year. Not cheap either. Around $40,000.
I asked UCSD political science professor Thad Kousser to make sense of this and he pointed out that there is a scientific argument to this. "Carpool lanes are a scarce resource, and if you allow more and more people into the carpool lanes then you lose the benefit of the hybrid electric car. Then it becomes anyone can join. You have to set limits to get the benefit."
And then we talked about the fact that a Prius owner for example who might have been at the forefront of the hybrid car movement would become no longer green enough. To some consumers it feels like the rules of the game were changed mid-stream, says Kousser.
It's important to point out, the rules of the game for current hybrids had always included an end date for the use of carpool lanes to be January 2011.
So if you're counting on the purchase of your hybrid car to qualify for the privileges, make sure it meets the qualifications for the future.