CA Assembly Bill 544: If you use the car pool lanes, you must read this!

CA Assembly Bill 544: If you use the car pool lanes, you must read this!

Bought my 2014 Model S CPO in March 2018 in the Bay Area. It did not have the "Clean Air Vehicle: Access OK" sticker on it at that time. Applied for and was issued the new red decal from the DMV. Even got a notice from them in the summer that the red stickers expiration date was being extended until 2022. So far, so good since I commute 30 miles each way on 101 & being able to use the car pool lanes was a prime motivation for me to switch to EV's!

Two days back, I got a notice from the DMV that my red decal stickers were issued in error & are being revoked. Instead, they sent me white decal stickers with an expiration date of Dec 31, 2018 & cannot be renewed after that. Meaning, no more car pool access from January 1, 2019!! This is been a rude shock to me... I called up the DMV number on the mailing notice. The lady who answered was very courteous but she explained that according to the new CA Bill 544, "only those with a Clean Air Vehicle Decal originally issued from January 1, 2017 - December 31, 2018 will be able to to participate after January 1, 2019". Apparently, my car had originally been issued white decals back in 2014 (which Tesla never told me about) and so I was ineligible and had been issued red decals in error earlier this year. She also said that she's been hearing a lot of complaints from people about this new policy & I should take it up with my local assemblyman/state senator if I wanted to pursue this further.

Now I am agonizing about this... I love my Tesla and it has been a remarkable driving experience indeed that I can't imagine driving any other EV.. but I also don't want to lose my car pool access. According to, come January 1, 2019, 223,000 solo drivers will lose access to HOV lanes due to this new policy! Can you imagine the traffic jams when that many more people crowd back into the regular lanes! Besides, does it make sense that a pre-2017 EV with zero emissions cannot use the car pool lanes while a newer hybrid vehicle that still pollutes can continue to use them?

I going to take it up on the DMV's advice & contact my council member / state senator & let my displeasure known at this new policy. If you are going to be affected, you should do so too!!

RedShift | October 11, 2018

As it is, I’m expecting the carpool lanes in the Bay Area to get congested anyway, due to the flood of Model 3s and other EVs.

Well, carpool lanes are going to get pretty congested too, if they keep white and red at the same time.

I know it’s harsh but there is a logic behind this policy. Tesla could have told you about the expiring stickers, but the onus was on you to do the research as the stickers are state policy, not Tesla’s.

SCCRENDO | October 11, 2018

I guess the question many of us ask is should new hybrids get precedence old EVs. And indeed should a truck with multiple people in have car pool privileges. While gas guzzling car pools do keep vehicles off the road they pollute more than multiple small ICE vehicles. Just my opinion which does differ from the legislators

ramuk | October 11, 2018


Read my post again. With all due respect, I did my due diligence. I got bummed on two fronts: First, Tesla never told me that the car had the white decal previously. When I got it in March, there were no stickers on the car & I assumed as much. Second, when I applied in April, the DMV issued the new red decal for the car. They even issued the extension certificate (valid until 2022) in June. Now, in October, they are saying it was all a mistake & I should surrender the red decal.. I feel totally bummed about this...

ramuk | October 11, 2018


Couldn't agree more with you. I am not sure what's the point of allowing silly hybrid cars with a few miles of electric range as 'clean air' vehicles. Before the Tesla, I had a 2018 BMW 530e hybrid that had 13 miles of electric range. Thinking about it now, it's laughable that it was classified as a 'clean air' vehicle & was issued the car pool decal! But for the fact that I had to return the car for battery issues (another real bummer!.. no more BMWs for me), I would still be driving on it in the car pool lanes, come 2019! CA 544 is a real beauty!

rxlawdude | October 11, 2018

It gets worse. Those with low incomes (<85% of median Californian) can get extended stickers even for vehicles that have or had white/green stickers issued prior to 1/1/17, if the PERSON did not originally get the white/green stickers.

Example: 2014 Leaf sold in '14, white stickers issued in January 2015. That VEHICLE is not entitled to extended stickers. However, if that Leaf was sold to a low-income person, that PERSON is entitled to a one-time order of extended stickers.

Curiously, though, the law allowing low income persons the stickers doesn't take effect till 1/1/20. The exception for a PERSON is a one-time deal. So that used Leaf owner in the example above will lose HOV access on 1/1/19 (like the rest of us early white/green sticker holders), but on 1/1/20, he/she can get HOV access back.

CVC 5205.5 (a), as amended:
"(3) (A) Notwithstanding the validity timeframe specified in clause (iii) of subparagraph (B) of paragraph (2), commencing January 1, 2020, and until January 1, 2024, a decal, label, or other identifier may be issued pursuant to subparagraph (A) or (C) of paragraph (1) for a vehicle that had previously been issued a decal, label, or other identifier, and the decal, label, or other identifier shall be valid until January 1, 2024, if the applicant for the decal, label, or other identifier has a household income at or below 80 percent of the state median income, as designated by the Department of Housing and Community Development’s list of state income limits adopted pursuant to Section 50093 of the Health and Safety Code. The determination of income eligibility shall be made by a governmental or nonprofit entity selected by the department, in a format prescribed by the department.

(B) A PERSON who obtained a decal, label, or other identifier for a vehicle prior to January 1, 2017, shall not be issued another decal, label, or other identifier pursuant to this paragraph, notwithstanding the person’s qualifying income."

This whole thing is like Alice in Wonderland.

rxlawdude | October 11, 2018

should be "if that Leaf was LATER sold to a lot-income person..."

RedShift | October 11, 2018

While I can appreciate your predicament, and agree with you about the hybrid vehicles getting the perks reserved for 100% ZEVs, I don’t think Tesla can guide you about the carpool lane stickers. I have heard of prior CPO Tesla sales where the carpool lane stickers were left on despite the detailing that every CPO goes through.

That suggests the stickers were taken off by the owners prior to trade in, or something else must have happened (like a new bumper, or paint job needed because of a rear end accident). There is apparently a market for these decals, just look for them in craigslist.

In any case, you will have white stickers, which you’d have had anyway if they hadn’t been taken off. Your only complaint is that they expire January 1 2019.

Still points to a lack of due diligence on your part, sir. If you’d just done some googling you’d have known about used vehicles and carpool lane sticker policy. Sorry to say.

rxlawdude | October 11, 2018

"Apparently, my car had originally been issued white decals back in 2014 (which Tesla never told me about)..."

You didn't ASK? And I'm pretty sure you could confirm the VIN with DMV whether or not that vehicle had stickers previously issued, and when.

ramuk | October 11, 2018


No, there's currently no way to check whether a vehicle's been issued the sticker.. I have checked and DMV does not do that, but now I think they should ... and you do get the part where I said that they issued the red stickers back in April & only now discovered that it had been in error, right? That error could have happened at any time of the buying process.

The piece about CVC 5205.5 (a) was an eye-opener. I didn't know about that... thanks for the info!

carlk | October 11, 2018

Did you return your red stickers? I'd just use them and thank DMV for its error. No need to fight the government which will never get you anywhere.

RedShift | October 11, 2018


Exactly what I was going to suggest, but backed off because it might be illegal. However, I wouldn’t know how a cop could tell from afar whether a red decal has been ‘revoked’.

SCCRENDO | October 11, 2018

The cop has to bother to look it up. The cop is unlikely to look up a red sticker on a Tesla

ramuk | October 11, 2018

DMV has put a hold on any further transactions involving the car (letter says registration & titling) until the red stickers are returned.. trust the govt to know how to get at you.

kenj | October 11, 2018

@Ramuk This is not a Tesla issue. As stated, seems like the DMV is going on the honor system. Sooooo.... you gotta do what you gotta do.

The Legislation appears to be attempting to address overcrowding in the HOV/car pool lanes with single occupant.

BTW 200,000+ people calling/emailing their state legislator would get traction on a modification for ZEV's - just sayin'

rxlawdude | October 12, 2018

I've tried contacting Bloom's office, but as I'm not a constituent there's not been any response.

The issue really is: IF there is an oversubscription to HOV lanes that is caused by HOV stickered vehicles, then why not get more selective about which vehicles qualify?

In my view, if it has a combustion engine, it should not qualify. This would get rid of the plug in hybrids that, to be honest, 90% were purchased solely for HOV access and are not routinely plugged in.

RedShift | October 12, 2018



The hybrid allowance was probably due to lobbying by the big car makers.

carlk | October 12, 2018

***The hybrid allowance was probably due to lobbying by the big car makers.***

The CARB is in bed with Toyota. Not only for the plug in hybrid which benefits Toyota the most but it is also giving FCV a much sweeter deal than BEV. A total waste of resources.

The Prius got 10 miles or so battery miles. Pretty much every Prius you see on the HOV lane is burning gases and emitting toxic gases. What a joke that is.

jerrykham | October 12, 2018

So if you look into the "why" apparently there is a Federal rule that the HOV lanes must maintain a minimum average speed of 45 miles per hour. So CA looked into it and found that something like 25% of the cars in the lane were cheaters. So instead of stepping up enforcement, we get our HOV lanes converted to "Express Lanes" where people can pay to be in them. Oh, and then kick the ZEVs out. You know, to keep the minimum average speed up. Right... Except it is all about this new Express Lane revenue source and we all know it.

ramuk | October 12, 2018

There's a petition to amend the legislation:

Please sign it if you feel strongly about this issue.

rxlawdude | October 12, 2018

@ramuk, thanks for that. I signed it.

rxlawdude | October 12, 2018

@jerrykham, yep, the scam of turning public right-of-ways into rich people's bypass lanes is more than disgusting. I vote against every local politician that has had a hand in turning HOVs into HOTs.

Everyone should know I-405 in OC will be converted to HOT. Oh yeah, and no more free access to HOTs in L.A. starting next month.

rxlawdude | October 12, 2018

@carlk, and Toyota's thank you to California? Move HQ to Texas. Seems we should no longer be betrothen to Toyota here.

SCCRENDO | October 12, 2018

Signed and donated

swilliams39 | October 24, 2018

@ramuk - I'm in the same position, I've been posting in forums and emailing local and state politicians for month - I was even on a local talk radio show recently on NPR, but I've gotten nowhere. I think more people are paying attention to the rules required to get a new red sticker now that it's getting closer and being discussed more frequently in the media. I bought my Model S in September 2017 (AB 544 was signed in October), not only did i not have any idea that the car had been stickered by a previous owner, but I also didn't know this new bill would be signed one month later. I drive 35 miles each way and spend a MINIMUM of 3 hours in the car, I can't imagine not having carpool lane access, it's going to be a nightmare. Thank you for posting the link to the petition, I will also post in the other forums I've posted in and pass around to friends that are in similar situations.

SUN 2 DRV | October 25, 2018

ramuk: These aren't changes due to the new law.

Stickers from the previous program were ALWAYS slated to expire on Jan 1, 2019 (although some of us hoped and expected they would be extended). I knew 2019 was the end back when I got my stickers in 2013.

Also the previous law made it clear that new stickers would only be issued for cars that hadn't been issued stickers previously. That's why some people go out of their way to buy a used Tesla from an out of state seller. It was on YOU to determine if the car you were considering purchasing met your needs and expectations, not Tesla.

So these constraints existed for many years and weren't the result of the newly passed legislation about how access to these lanes will be governed in the future.

rxlawdude | October 25, 2018

@SUN 2 DRV, while you are correct that the stickers were scheduled to expire 1/1/19, it is a fact that the yellow stickers started in 2005 were slated to expire in 2009, but were extended till 2011.

The bigger issue is the policy of plug-in hybrids that qualify for the formerly green stickers. With the new law, there is now no differentiation between a truly clean BEV or FC vehicle and that of its ICE laden brethren.

ramuk | October 26, 2018

@swilliams39: I have recently written a letter to my local assemblyman & state senator.. will update if I hear back (I believe writing a personal note will have better traction than an email). Please pass the petition around.. I also feel that this issue is dawning on more people as the expiration date draws closer.

rxlawdude | October 26, 2018

Since the legislature does not meet until January, it's unlikely anything will change before then.

guydude | October 27, 2018

Thank goodness! I see way too many white decals in the carpool lanes! Red decals FTW!

Also, I’d i were you I would just leave the red decals on the car.

Tesla2018 | October 27, 2018

Since I have started using the hov-carpool lanes in FL, I have noticed that most of the cars dont have 2 people in them or dont have the hov stickets. Just mainly jerks that think its some sort of hi speed lane for people that want to do 90 mph.

Question- If you are in a Hov lane doing the speed limit or above do you have to move over if a car starts riding your bumper, or are they suppossed to be in the fast lane to the right of you? Its keep right, pass left in most states but what if the hov is the left lane?

Earl and Nagin ... | October 27, 2018

Clearly, you are permitted to use the HOV lane if you are doing the speed limit. It is not clear whether passing laws apply to drivers in the HOV lane.
However, even if you are within your rights to drive slower than people in the other lanes to your right, you probably won't be very popular with others in the carpool lane.
Many Prius drivers in CA probably set the environmental movement back at least a decade by famously driving way below the speed limit in the HOV lanes, smugly saving fuel but annoying everyone else.

SCCRENDO | October 27, 2018

If you are driving slower in the HOV lanes than the cars in the regular lanes why would you be in the HOV lanes. Just because you have the right to be a dickhead does not mean you should

rxlawdude | October 27, 2018

@SCC +1

ramuk | November 24, 2018

Hi all, I just heard back today from my Assembly member, Kevin Mullin in response to my letter. He represents the San Mateo County in the CA legislature. His exact response is copied below:

"I appreciate your desire to see AB544 amended to allow existing HOV sticker holders to continue to utilize the lanes. I will consider your proposal later this fall when I gather with my staff to consider my bill package for the next legislative session."

I take his response as a positive first step! If you live in the San Mateo County/Bay Area, I urge you to write to him. If enough of us petition our legislature, we can make it happen!

lilbean | November 24, 2018

He's a politician. They have a way of making you believe they care.

rxlawdude | November 25, 2018

@ramuk, at least it's a start. But I would say your ask is too broad. Existing stickers include Plug-in-hybrids, which many bought for the HOV sticker with no intent to plug them in ever.

So, the correct ask is, "as a matter of public policy of pollution reduction, should truly zero-emission vehicles that qualified for white stickers (Natural Gas Civics excluded) be removed from the HOV lanes after three years?"

ramuk | November 25, 2018

@rxlawdude: That is exactly what I have pointed out in my letter to Mullin:

"AB 544 creates an absurd situation where one of the cleanest vehicles on the road like the pre-2017 Tesla's will be banned from the HOV lanes, while a dirty, polluting vehicle like the.. TZEV's (plug-in hybrids) can however use those lanes"

"If the concern is that the HOV lanes are getting too crowded, then common sense suggests that the first line of action should be to ban the TZEV's which actually run on gasoline at highway speeds. This will also be in line with the mandate of the Clean Air Vehicle program which is supposed to incentivize the adoption of ZEV technology."

rxlawdude | November 26, 2018

@ramuk, I'll send the same to my Assemblyperson and State Senator. Maybe those from Orange County (high percentage of Tesla/EV owners) will be more tuned into the issue.

sdmacuser | February 3, 2019

Exact same thing happened to me (kicked out of California's commuter lanes because I am an early EV adapter) in my 2013 Nissan Leaf which is 100% ZERO EMISSIONS! But I just now purchased an air polluting $30K plug-in so I can continue to use diamond lanes. GO FIGURE OUT CA CLEAN AIR BOARD! F@#$ U very much Annette Hebert, Chief Emissions Compliance, Automotive Regulations and Science Division.

TranzNDance | February 3, 2019

They should kick out hybrids before kicking out old EVs.

sdmacuser | February 11, 2019

You think? We need to rename it. It's no longer the CA Clean Air Board. More like, the CA Hot Air Board.