State governments can encourage the purchase of “super ultra-low emission vehicles” or “SULEVs” by allowing such SULEVs to use high occupancy vehicle or HOV lanes without regard to the number of passengers they carry. SULEV is a U.S. classification for passenger vehicle emissions, based on the vehicle producing 90% fewer emissions than the average gasoline powered vehicle.
Federal programs have advanced the implementation of HOV lanes by offering state and local transportation authorities access to federal funding if their HOV lanes meet (or exceed) federal requirements. The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (“FAST Act”) in 2015 extended the ability of public authorities to offer HOV access for a wide variety of alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) and plug-in electric vehicles (BEVs and PHEVs) through 2025, when support for HOV lane exemptions sunsets, unless extended. For that reason, this model law also sunsets in 2025.
The model state statute we propose would be more restrictive with respect to PHEV battery capacity than allowed under federal law, excluding vehicles operating on fuel other than hydrogen fuel cells or electricity. We do not propose a threshold EPA mileage rating for PHEVs. Instead, we propose all PHEVs meet the most stringent GHG emission standards–Federal Tier 3 Bin 30 and California LEV-III SULEV 30–and receive a perfect GHG score of 10 in California’s Model Year 2019 Green Vehicle Guide. We have chosen to draft a model law that exempts from the multiple occupant requirement only hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (HFCVs), BEVs, and PHEVs with battery capacities of at least 8 kWh.
The proposed state statute that follows is loosely based on California Vehicle Code section 5205.5, as amended in 2018, effective January 1, 2019. It omits California’s exclusions from the AFV exemption of car owners who received rebates with their purchase, among other provisions.