This probably won’t come as a surprise to you but Californians weren’t buying Priuses just because of their fuel efficiency – they were also in it to gain Clean Air Vehicle status and get a handy HOV lane sticker. Up until 2007, 85,000 stickers were given out for hybrid vehicles, but soon those stickers won’t mean anything. Effective as of January 1st, 2011, the prized yellow HOV sticker on hybrid vehicles like the Prius will be defunct, but will still work for more efficient natural gas and electric vehicles through 2015. Prius and hybrid car owners are likely to be quite miffed by the status downgrade, but the new law will help encourage people to buy even more fuel efficient vehicles.

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California started issuing HOV stickers for hybrid vehicles in 2005 and issued 85,000 in total until 2007, when they stopped issuing the stickers. The incentive was meant to encourage car buyers to purchase more fuel efficient cars and reward them with the ability to drive in the carpool lane even if there was only one person in the car – and it worked. In fact, used Priuses with the HOV sticker were worth $1200 to $1500 more than those without.

As of January 1, 2011, the yellow HOV sticker will no longer grant access to the HOV lane for hybrid vehicles. However, the white HOV permits for fully electric, natural gas, or fuel-cell hydrogen vehicles will still be valid through 2015. Also a new law is expected to be passed which will extend HOV access both to plug-in vehicles, like the Prius plug-in hybrid, and electric cars with range-extending gasoline engines like the Volt. The old law was successful in encouraging hybrid vehicle purchases, but now that law is out of date. The new law should go even further to encourage CA drivers to buy even more fuel efficient vehicles.

Via Green Car Reports