This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

May 23, 2007

EPA Proposes Criteria for Clean Vehicles Allowed in HOV Lanes

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed criteria last week for hybrid and alternative-fueled vehicles that states might allow to travel in the high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, even when the driver is alone in the vehicle. The 2005 transportation act authorized such occupancy exemptions for HOV lanes to encourage the purchase and use of clean vehicles. The act also required EPA to set the criteria for such clean vehicles. According to DOE's Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC), some type of HOV exemption is currently offered in eight states—Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, Utah, and Virginia—and the District of Columbia. See the AFDC Web site.

The EPA is proposing to require the vehicles to be either a dedicated alternative fuel vehicle or a high-efficiency hybrid vehicle. Hybrids must achieve either a 50 percent or better improvement in fuel economy during city driving, compared to a similar gasoline-only vehicle, or a 25 percent or better improvement in average fuel economy (using the EPA's combined city and highway estimates). The "dedicated" requirement for alternative fuel vehicles excludes flex-fuel vehicles, which can run on either gasoline or a blend containing 85 percent ethanol, because many flex-fuel vehicle owners fill their tanks with gasoline.

The EPA also requires the vehicle to meet stringent air quality criteria (either EPA Tier 2, Bin 5 or California LEV II) and to weigh less than 8,500 pounds. States will be able to set tougher criteria but not looser ones. The EPA will accept comments on the proposal for 30 days after its publication in the Federal Register, which as of Tuesday had not yet occurred. See the EPA press release and the proposed ruling.

Editor's Note: The proposed rules were published in the May 24th edition of the Federal Register, which means that comments must be received by July 9th. A public hearing will be held on June 8th. See the proposed rules.