Politically Rewarded Behavior: Calif. Lets Single-Occupant Volts Into HOV Lanes

Silly me. I thought "HOV" when used in connection with expressway traffic meant "High Occupancy Vehicle." Apparently not, now that California is allowing a 2012 version of the Chevy Volt to use HOV lanes, even by drivers who have no passengers. Maybe the acronym really stands for "Haughty Obama Vehicles." Or "Hapless Odd Vehicles." Or "Have-to Offload (these slow-selling) Vehicles." I'm sure readers can do better.

As would be expected, no one in the press seems to be noticing (or is pretending not to notice) the irony of letting politically favored driver-only vehicles into lanes which were originally designed to encourage people to carpool. Here are a few paragraphs from one of the longer items on the topic found at 3D-Car-Shows.com:

2012 Chevrolet Volt Cleared for California Carpool Lanes
Low Emissions Package model certified for special driving privilege and rebate

A low emission model of the 2012 Chevrolet Volt electric car are on their way to California, where customers will qualify for a $1,500 state rebate and be allowed to drive solo in the state’s carpool lanes.

Volts with the Low Emissions Package, which is standard for California, began shipping from the General Motors Detroit-Hamtramck plant this week and should begin arriving at the more than 140 participating Chevrolet dealerships in California before the end of the month.

Commuters who use carpool lanes in Southern California save an estimated average 36 minutes a day, or about a third of their total driving time.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles is making 40,000 Clean Air Stickers available for registered vehicles that meet the state’s emissions standards. Applications can be downloaded from the DMV’s web site at dmv.ca.gov

Additionally, the new Low Emissions Package makes the 2012 Volt eligible for owners and lessees to receive up to $1,500 in state rebates through the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project. This incentive is in addition to a federal tax credit of up to $7,500 Clean vehicle rebate applications can be submitted online at www.energycenter.org.

California has more than 1,400 miles of High Occupancy Vehicle lanes. Originally restricted to vehicles with two or more occupants to help minimize congestion, the lanes are now open to single occupancy use by owners of advanced, low-emission vehicles.

Since enticing consumers with a variety of tax breaks and credit isn't enough, the government has to hand out "commute breaks" as political favors to save Volt owners time each day. This is unfair to other driver-only vehicles whose owners must endure the more congested lanes. I would say that this favoritism will inconvenience current HOV lane users, but there probably still won't be enough Volts sold to cause HOV lanes to slow down.

True Blue NZ, from which the "Fire Sale" graphic at the top of this post was obtained, made an interesting point back in January that "the bulk of these have been bought by government agencies" (if not a majority, certainly a significant percentage), whose drivers get to look down their noses at the rest of the poor peons in the slow lanes as they cruise past.

One upside: At least the drivers sitting stalled in the slow lanes won't have to worry about having a nearby Volt catching fire and having it spread to them.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

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