2012 Volt Moves Into California Carpool Lanes

By Scott Doggett November 21, 2011

Volt Gets Carpool Sticker.jpg

A low-emissions package that qualifies the 2012 Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid hatchback for single-occupant travel in California's High Occupancy Vehicle traffic lanes will be standard on all models sold in the Golden State early next year, the automaker said, The special tuning will have no affect on the model's price, performance, fuel economy or electricity-only driving range, Rob Peterson, manager of the Volt and electric vehicle technologies at General Motors, told AutoObserver. California is a key state for Volt sales, and giving the Volt carpool lane access is expected to help swell sales there.

Owners of a Volt with the package will be eligible to apply for one of 40,000 available HOV lane stickers issued to vehicles that qualify as a California Enhanced, Advanced Technology - Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle, or AT-PZEV, as defined by the California Air Resources Board. Additionally, the new package makes the Volt eligible for owners to receive up to $1,500 in state rebates through the state’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Project. This incentive is in addition to the federal government’s tax credit of up to $7,500 depending on buyers’ income tax liabilities.

California has more than 1,400 miles of HOV lanes on its freeways. Originally, these lanes were restricted to vehicles with two or more occupants to help minimize congestion. However, the state updated the program to allow single occupancy use of HOV lanes as a way to encourage early adoption of advanced, low-emission vehicles. Other states offer the same incentive, but Peterson said there are no plans at this time to make the qualifying low-emissions equipment standard on Volts sold in those states.

More Oxygen
Chevrolet engineers modified the Volt's engine and exhaust components -- specifically the catalytic converter -- by adding a secondary air-injection pump that streams ambient air into the exhaust stream to increase its ability to remove pollutants. The additional oxygen helps the catalytic converter remove even more pollutants than the already clean standard Volt.

The Volt has a total driving range of up to 379 miles, based on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates. For the first 35 miles, the Volt can drive without burning gasoline or spewing tailpipe emissions using a full charge of electricity stored in its 16-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery. When the Volt's battery runs low, a gas-powered engine/generator fires up to extend the driving range another 344 miles on a full tank. GM has reported that Volt owners have travelled more than 10 million miles since the vehicle launched late last year. Roughly two-thirds of those miles were powered by grid electricity.

"HOV lane access is a coveted perk in California," Chris Perry, vice president of global Chevrolet marketing, said in a statement Friday. "The low-emissions Volt will be a strong draw for drivers who commute daily in the most-congested driving environments in the United States." There's no question he is correct about that; HOV access can save commuters many hours of driving per week, and owners of vehicles with access to them have made no secret of their appreciation of the stickers. A program offering carpool lane access stickers to drivers of conventional hybrids expired this summer, but while those stickers were useable they added an average of $4,000 to the sales price of used hybrids that had them.

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