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Is the BMW i3 Aiming for a California HOV Lane Loophole?

BMW i3, in the Nude.
BMW i3, in the Nude.

The BMW i3 and i8, shown as extended-range electric vehicles [EREV] in recent years on the auto show circuits, are a highly anticipated addition to the BMW lineup.

The new BMW ‘i’ line is a new direction in green technology The BMW i3, in particular, is actually set for a full reveal at the end of the month, and details on the vehicle are still pretty sketchy. BMW isn’t giving any exact specifications, but the ones they are handing out look promising. If you’ve been interested in HOV [High Occupancy Vehicle] lane passes in California, it could be perfect!

The laws governing access to the HOV lane aren’t too complicated. Basically, if you have two passengers or more, you can take the HOV lane in any vehicle except for a tractor trailer. California is heavily promoting the purchase of electric vehicles [EV], and one perk to EV ownership is access to the HOV lane, even if you drive alone. Clean-Air vehicles, such as the Nissan Leaf EV, Honda Civic CNG, and the upcoming BMW i3 EV, can get a white Clean-Air sticker granting access to the HOV lanes.

Starting in January 2012, a limited number of green Clean-Air stickers will be handed out, just 40,000 total, which will allow plug-in hybrid electric vehicles [PHEV] and EVERs to travel with a single occupant in the HOV lane. Vehicles such as the Toyota Prius PHEV, Chevy Volt EVER, and Fisker Karma would qualify for one of the green Clean-Air stickers, but time is running out! Unless California changes the ruling, you may not be able to get a green sticker on your PHEV or EVER.

This is where it gets interesting. If you’re not too keen on the limited EV range of the Nissan Leaf or even the BMW i3, and you can’t afford the Tesla Model S’ range, you can still get a BMW i3 EVER that qualifies for the white Clean-Air sticker. Wait, don’t EVERs only qualify for the limited number of green Clean-Air stickers?

According to the rules, as long as the range-extender doesn’t exceed the EV range, the EVER can still qualify for the white Clean-Air sticker. With a ≈22kWh lithium-ion battery and 80-100mi EV range, the BMW i3 is already quite capable. I think I know what BMW was thinking when they made optionally-available the .65ℓ i2 gasoline-powered range-extender for the BMW i3. The fuel tank is just the right size to match the range delivered by the 22kWh battery pack, neatly falling right into the California HOV lane ruling that allows for EVERs.

Even though the white Clean-Air stickers are slowly dwindling, you can still wait for the BMW i3 EV or EVER to come and make your move to the California HOV lane. Your move, Chevy Volt.

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  1. Really the concern is that the green/white HOV access stickers are set to expire in 2015. One single year of HOV lane access isn’t very much of a benefit when talking about the sticker price of any BMW.
    Legislation is pending that would extend the stickers out another five years, but it has yet to leave committee and stand for a full vote in the legislature. If it doesn’t pass, that sticker will expire January 1, 2015.
    I’m holding off, but primarily interested in a Civic GX, it’s the lowest cost HOV lane access sticker. If this gets extended to 2020, I’m buying one the moment it’s a done deal.

  2. I am thinking BMW really did their homewok to make sure that the BMW i3 will meet the standards for the HOV lane. There is a huge customer base in California and why not do everything to match it. I’ve been reading a lot over at http://www.bmwi3forum.com and this car is gaining a ton of popularity, over 100,000 people are interested in test drives. The BMW i3 could be the future for electric cars.

    • @BMWi3 Fan thanks for the link!
      i do love the Tesla Motors approach, but i have to agree that most of the population still doesn’t /get/ how range and recharging works. until battery prices come down and capacity goes up, EVERs could be the middle ground that everyone can agree on.


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