Being able to legally drive solo in the high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) carpool lane is a big deal in California. You can save copious amounts of time, not to mention avoiding considerable aggravation. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) determines which cars are eligible. Zero-emission cars like the BMW i3 are eligible and can wear a white sticker that allows them into the HOV lanes even though the car contains only the driver.
The BMW i3 with Range Extender isn’t a pure zero-emission car because of its auxiliary engine that charges the car’s lithium-ion batteries; but according to its web site, CARB will now allow it to sport a green sticker, which is awarded to “transitional zero-emission vehicles” (TZEV) and also lets single-occupant cars into the carpool lanes.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that many BMW i3 Range Extender owners may not be able to take advantage of this decision. While California allows an unlimited number of white-stickered vehicles, the state has limited the number of green stickers issued to 40,000—total. As of April 28, 2014, the state had already issued 39,359 green stickers. Owners of qualifying cars may only have a few days to grab one of the few remaining green stickers. It's even possible that applications already in the pipeline may already account for all of the available green stickers. Since all-electric BMW i3 deliveries only started this past week, and range-extended i3s aren’t expected for a few more weeks, it’s entirely possible—even probable—that there won’t be any green stickers left for BMW i3s with Range Extender.
The good news isn’t all bad, however. Both versions of the BMW i3 qualify owners for up to a $7,500 federal tax credit. A recent decision affecting California owners also makes both versions of the BMW i3 eligible for the full $2,500 California Clean Vehicle Rebate.
For details on the single occupant carpool lane stickers, visit http://arb.ca.gov/msprog/carpool/carpool.htm.
For more information on the California Clean Vehicle Rebate, visit https://energycenter.org/clean-vehicle-rebate-project.
To learn about the federal tax credit for zero-emission vehicles, visit the Department of Energy Qualified Plug-In Electric Drive Motor Vehicle Tax Credit page and the IRS web site explaining the Plug-In Electric Drive Vehicle Credit.