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A cleaner way to drive

Problems getting the California High Occupancy Vehicle white stickers.

HOV lane white sticker for CalifoniaRecently, the California Air Resources Board (ARB) have been turning down converted EVs for receiving the white Clean Air Vehicle stickers, including my MR2 electric that is charged mainly off solar panels.



These stickers allows 100% electric vehicles to use the High Occupancy Vehicle lanes during traffic hours and also reduces the toll that the drivers have to pay to cross any of the bridges in the Bay Area.

From the DMV Webpage on Decals, the criteria for receiving a white sticker is as follows:

White CAV decals are issued according to the following criteria:

  • A vehicle that meets California’s super ultra–low emission vehicle (SULEV) standard for exhaust emissions and the federal inherently low–emission vehicle (ILEV) evaporative emission standard. This includes certain zero–emission vehicles (ZEVs).
  • A 2004 model-year or older vehicle that meets the California ultra–low emission vehicle (ULEV) standard for exhaust emissions and the federal ILEV standard.
  • Certain Advanced Technology Partial Zero-Emission Vehicles (AT PZEV).

I’ve been in contact with the ARB a few times regarding this issue, and here’s a bulleted list of the key things they mentioned to me.

  • Manufactured EVs that appears on their list of eligible EVs qualify for the white sticker.
  • For conversions to qualify, the parts must have come from a conversion kit and the company selling the conversion kit must have followed the Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) certification procedure for the kit. see link
  • One up home conversions do not qualify for the certification process.

I understand why the ARB requires certification of all ZEVs before granting eligibility for these stickers, but it is item 3 that I have issue with.

If I am willing to go through the certification process to prove that my home converted electric car meets all ZEV standards, why won’t the ARB allow it? If it is a resource issue, then perhaps what it takes a more streamlined procedure for doing such certifications. It is my opinion that this is unfair and discriminatory against small business that specialize in conversions as well as individuals who due to preference, may elect to convert a classic car like a Porche 911 to electric instead buying something like a Leaf. I’ve left a message today for the contact at ARB that is responsible for ZEV certifications (Ms. Shobna Sahni, (626) 450-6104, to see if it will be possible to put my 1986 MR2 electric through certification and will report back.

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Posted in HOV stickers, MR2EV

6 Responses to “Problems getting the California High Occupancy Vehicle white stickers.”

  • Mark Brems says:

    This is a troublesome issue. Not because I am losing sleep over the extra 10 minutes it will take me to get to work because I cannot use the HOV lane, but because the State of CA does not recognize the labor, time, and expense that I have put into converting my car to a ZEV. Why should I be barred from the same privileges and incentives that the driver of a store-bought ZEV has?

    The CAV program is administered by the DMV, for which the ARB has been enlisted to certify manufacturers, product lines and parts relative to air quality concerns. I think the DMV itself should use their existing referee program to inspect and certify conversions as Zero Emissions Vehicles, bypassing the ARB only when a vehicle is confirmed as pure electric (no tailpipe).

    Crap, now I gotta go blog about this.

    • Ken says:

      I am not losing sleep over an extra 10 minutes of using normal lanes either (actually, I have a reverse commute and typically don’t have to worry about traffic jams to and from work, lucky me!), but I guess for me it is the principle. An incentive that encourages driving zero emissions vehicles should be administered consistently when vehicles meet that requirement, either manufactured or converted.
      I just spoke to Kitty Kramer at DMV on Friday. She has been successful in helping an EV friend of mine (who wishes to remain nameless) to successfully get the White HOV stickers when DMV first rejected his application. I agree with you 100% that DMV should leverage their existing referee program and bypass ARB when the conversion is a 100% battery electric car with no chance of emissions. However, in our conversation, she mentioned that DMV is only an enforcement agency and can only enforce what the ARB has instructed them to do, which in this case is to look up an ARB published list of eligible vehicles or to receive with the application a certification letter from ARB. It is a frustrating point. I’m looking forward to your post and ideas. In the meantime, I am still forging ahead with an effort to change legislation to help with this.

      • Mark Brems says:

        Hey Ken,

        I am not surprised that DMV wanted to pass the buck on to ARB, when two ARB agents told me personally on two different occasions that the ARB is only acting under DMV’s directions, and that the DMV is responsible for administering the CAV program. It is vehicle-related after all. So, that said, who is behind the wheel?


  • [...] A personal account by EV conversion blogger Ken Chiang recounts his ongoing dialog with the Certifications Department at ARB, and included a contact number for an ARB manager. That manager told me that ARB only issues certifications at the behest of the DMV, stating that the DMV ultimately issues the CAV sticker, not ARB. [...]

  • Mark Brems says:

    Hey Ken,

    My research is complete. It seems ARB has complete say over who or who does not get CAV stickers, and that is governed by legislation. Also, it was explained to me that the CAV sticker program is an incentive limited mainly to the buyers of new ULEVs or ZEVs, or conversions performed by a manufacturer (a certified fleet manager for instance). Bottom line: It is an incentive program, not a reward program.

    In order to make any policy change, it has to go through the legislature. I finally posted on the subject:

    Make sure to click on the link to the Catch 22 clip. Pretty funny.


    • Ken says:

      Hi Mark,

      Just read your post, nice research and perspective on the HOV sticker issue for conversions. I had the same sense that ARB has the final say on who gets stickers based on my research too. I like your catch 22 reference of the situation.

      I don’t get the incentive vs. reward description of the sticker program though. Should someone not be incentivized to take a gas car off the roads and converted it to a ZEV? If I want to invest in a clean 100% battery electric car and I am choosing between a Nissan Leaf or convert a classic Porche 911, why should I get the incentive in one case but not the other equally appealing case (if not more appealing for some folks)?If the goal is to get people driving clean electric cars that don’t pollute, it makes sense to incentivize both cases equally. This seems a bit unfair to the small businesses that provide such service to allow only the big manufacturers to have the “reward” of added incentive for consumers to buy their cars, which are equally clean to someone that convert a gas car to electric.

      I know I am twisting your words a bit here, but I think you see my point. Update from me on the letter to the Senator and others. Have you heard anything? What do you think the next steps are? Start calling legislators? I did get an interesting comment Here:

      If we can find a way to get our cars certified by ARB efficiently, then we can officially get the certification letter from ARB and get the stickers no problem. The tough sell is within ARB to work with us individuals to qualify our cars, seems too expensive for them to dedicate staff for this.

      Let’s keep working on this to see if we can find a solution.

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