- All Volts shipping to California now come standard with "low emissions package"
- Slight change qualifies Volts for single occupancy carpool lane stickers
- Carpool lanes can shave hours off commute in some California cities
Regardless of all other critiques, it's unarguable the Chevy Volt is an amazing piece of American engineering. Even so, up to this point it has been missing one small bit of engineering that didn't really make any sense: the emissions equipment that allowed them to use the carpool lanes in California even when only the driver was in the car..
For years cars such as the Toyota Prius, Honda Civic Natural Gas, and other hybrids proliferated in California due to their ability to access the carpool lanes with only one occupant in them during rush hour. This special pass shaved an average of thirty minutes off the average Southern California driver's daily commute-and in some cases as much as an hour or more each day.
While the program for hybrids ended last year, advanced technology low emissions vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i became the new must-have, commute-killer vehicles due to their qualification for the sticker. So when it came to light that the Chevy Volt, another advanced technology plug-in vehicle, didn't qualify for the same carpool lane sticker it was a bit of a head scratcher.
As it turns out it only took a bit of engineering from GM to make the Volt qualify as a low-emissions vehicle-namely the addition of a small fan and some software changes-and now vehicles equipped with this low-emissions package are appearing at California dealerships. Every vehicle sold in California from now on will come standard with the equipment and-the most important part-will now qualify for the same carpool lane access as other high tech, next generation vehicles.
Unfortunately Volts sold before the changes were made cannot be upgraded and still won't qualify for carpool lane access. GM says it won't pass the cost of the new equipment package on to customers in California, maintaining the car's base price of $39,900. The car also qualifies for a $7,500 federal tax credit and a $1,500 California rebate, bringing the effective price down to around $31,000 in that state.
While California receives most of the attention around access to carpool lanes, Volts registered in Georgia, New York and Florida are also eligible for single occupancy carpool lane access.
What it means to you: In California there is now one more major reason to buy a Chevy Volt: access to the carpool lanes even when you're the only person in the car.