Chevy Volt Won't Qualify for HOV Lane or $5,000 Rebate in California

2011 Chevrolet Volt
When hybrids first hit the streets in numbers a decade ago, a huge advantage to owning one was getting a pass to drive on California’s coveted high-occupancy vehicles lanes, which are otherwise reserved for carpools. Hybrids became too plentiful years ago and lost that right, but Nissan’s new Leaf, an electric car, has been designated a zero-emission vehicle will qualify for HOV lane access, a $5,000 state tax rebate and preferential parking. Today, we learned Chevy’s new Volt will not.

The only new vehicles that qualify for HOV lanes are electric vehicles and natural gas-powered vehicles like the Honda Civic GX.

The California Air Resources Board designated the Volt as an Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle. The designation sounds great, but ULEVs represent the average in emissions standards, according to CARB. Nearly 55% of all newly registered vehicles in California are rated a ULEV. New vehicles such as the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango are rated within this category.

While the Volt could certainly sell well in California if only the HOV sticker or rebate were offered, losing out on both ownership bonuses might put a damper on its introduction in the Golden State. However, it’s likely that demand for the Leaf will far outweigh supply when it launches, so the Volt could still be an alluring alternative. The Volt will still be eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit.

California Vehicle Emissions Rating

There are three ratings that are better than ULEV, including Super Ultra Low-Emissions Vehicle (SULEV), Partial-credit Zero-Emissions Vehicle (PZEV) and Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV).

The Toyota Camry Hybrid, Hyundai Sonata, Honda CR-Z and Honda Civic Hybrid are rated PZEV.

In addition to federal emissions tests, the California system adds two more tests, a high-speed, high-acceleration test and an air-conditioning test, according to AutoBlogGreen. During these tests, emissions can be substantially higher than those measured during normal federal testing.

The California certification system is tested using gasoline, so the Volt’s 25 to 50 miles of electric-only range aren’t taken into consideration. These emissions tests reflect a Volt using its onboard gasoline generator only; it’s not exactly a fair fight for GM’s plug-in.

CARB recognizes the limitations of testing the Volt in this manner and is developing new testing procedures for plug-in electric hybrids, according to AutoBlogGreen.

According to GM’s literature, the automaker never claimed that the Volt would achieve ZEV status. However, PZEV status – like the Camry Hybrid – was likely assumed.

CARB rules the Chevy Volt is a ULEV, emits more* than Prius or Jetta TDI (AutoBlogGreen)



CARB is a joke. THey have a vehicle with 50 mi of electric range rated as poorly as an SUV that gets 16mpg in the city. Absurd and totally unhelpful to the cause of getting gas guzzlers off the road.

Amuro Ray

It's a joke for those GM supporters like u, when it goes against ur way. It's NOT a joke to Californians who cherish for green environments and healthy air to breath.

For a hybrid vehicle that gets 25-30 electric in normal daily commute, it means that the exhaust may and can contain emission as dirty as a 16 mpg SUV. That says sthg 'bou Volt's ICE and technological advancement. Of 'coz, people like Sheth will try to confuse mpg with emission. What CAFE is really saying is that, once Volt is NOT in EV mode, which is very often due to its short electric range, and buyer's intend to drive long distance (if that's not the case, than he/she should buy a pure EV, right?), it is a dirty, non-green vehicle unlike Prius, Insight, CR-Z, Altima/Camry/Fusion Hybrid, Coda, LEAF, Subaru, etc.

If GM can play dirty by labeling LEAF with range anxiety, then this ULEV is sthg that they put it upon itself, and is coming back to haunt it. After all, it is GM decision to have an ICE built in, right? What's ridiculous is that this "advance technology" as Sheth and alike have called it - can't even beat out many of the other hybrids of ICE only vehicles to achieve a green emission rating. Tsk, tsk tsk...

Amuro Ray

I'm not an accountant, but if my understanding of tax rebate is correct, this is significant, because you can actually get that $5000 back into your own bank's account, as long as the money for the rebate is still available, and that your vehicle qualifies.

Unlike the rebate, that $7500 tax credit is only good if you've to pay taxes, and that you'll qualify for it only if you have not claim some other tax credits/incentives. IOW, most people
(1) don't get $7500 back; and
(2) in the rare case that u r able to claim the full $7500, if ur income tax is less than $7500, u don't get any "rebate/refund" check.

I wonder if the CA tax rebate is also good for leased vehicle...can u find out,


I wanted to like this car, but this just further proves my reasoning as to why this vehicle doesn't make any sense.

Totally agree they never should have shoved that gas engine in there. Oh well.


Just wondering, what is the standard for ULEV? My Civic's rating is 29 combined, and it is also a ULEV like the JGC!?

Amuro Ray

EPA's MPG has no direct relationship to CAFE's emission.

Former is a measurement on the consumption of fuel; latter is a measurement on the emission of harmful particles.


How can GM claim Volt's ICE a range-extender? Ridiculous

Volt's batter range is only 40miles,while its ICE runs 330miles with9.3 gas tank(33mpg). How is ICE claimed range-extender, 330 Vs 40? It is an ICE car with 40mile batter-range capacity.

While 40miles is only for 20minutes hwy driving, the rest of driving is on ICE. Off couse, no HOV access.

Though GM claims the ICE is 33mpg, commonsense tells me the actual GM's mpg is very likely lower than that.



"While 40miles is only for 20minutes hwy driving..."

Damn, you drive really frickin' fast!


@ Dan

Frankly,My statement was unfairly too much in favor of Volt.

Imagine: after you drive your Volt out of your garage, city streets, and ramp to hwy, how much battery miles are left for actual hwy driving? Far,far less 40miles, isn't it?


hey colin,

for the PZEV vehicles you mentioned, you meant the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid not the regular Sonata, right?

Ed Watson

I'm waiting for our lame duck President and Gov Motors to blame it on Bush!

@JR According to the naturally aspirated four cylinder is a PZEV vehicle.


Have they driven in California? The emissions of the volt gasoline engine do appear to be greater than those of other cars, yes, but if you're in LA sitting, barely moving, the Volt is emitting nothing running on battery power while the Hyundai Sonata is most certainly idling and getting 0 mpg or close to it.

CARB will have to alter their test to provide a more realistic estimate for plug-in hybrids. Period.

Amuro Ray

This is actually a pretty realistic test, Six. I assume that you've driven in LA...the driving condition is that it's HOT from Spring to Fall, and the traffic is just a nightmare. Plus, it's VERY easy to go commuting within LA for over 10 mi 1 way. Under these conditions, Volt's electric drive may last for 25 mi with AC on all the time, or even less. Once the ICE kicks in, it's just as polluting, or even MORE polluting, then the regular ICE car next to you.

And if u drive on carpool lane, the traffic is actually not that much's still very congested! But let me give u the benefit of the doubt - free flow traffic there in carpool! Volt will last 'bou 20 min on electricity since fwy's speed is 65 mi/hr and most people drive 75 mi/hr or above in carpool lane - u probably know this, right, if u live in LA? That translates to at least 1/2 of your commute in ICE mode. Now how will that allow the Volt to use HOV as a zero emission vehicle or even PZEV?

Don't confuse mpg with CARB. It is a measurement of how much pollutants coming out of your tailpipe, and this happens 100% with an ICE. If you try to "average" it, it's really just an act to try to cover up the "dirty" truth of Volt's failure in its emission system.

It seems to me that GM engineers or product management people didn't have a clue as to what a clean vehicle really is. The equated low gas consumption = green vehicle! That's utterly false. Low gas consumption is a subset of a green vehicle, but NOT vice versa. This hypothesis is strength by GM's explanation on using ICE to increase the efficiency of the electric generator. From an engineering viewpoint - yes, that's great. For an environmental engineering viewpoint - wait a sec, that may not be a good idea. More over, the fact that Volt has to use premium gas in order to achieve optimal efficiency with a low-to-mid 30 mpg with a ULEV rating said sthg 'bou how much effort GM has spent into making sure that the ICE is also "green."


Can you stop acting like you're smart?


My Prius is an "AT PZEV."
Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle.
I had figured the Volt would be considered the same.

You can say what you want about the Volt, but (for better or worse) it's the only one of its kind out there. They tried something different so let's see how it does. Yes, it was stupid of GM not to put their greenest technology into the engine. Probably trying to keep an already high cost down.

You're going to hear stories about Leaf and other electrics stuck on the side of the road. You're not going to hear that about the Volt unless someone is stupid enough to run out of gas...


I just dumped Prius for Mazda3 i Touring.

I figured, I will use more gas but I will use less rare earths and less energy to manufacture and recycle the car. I will minimize EMF in the car and enjoy brisk acceleration. And when gasoline will be very expensive and there will be more choices of better hybrids and electric cars, I'll get back to it.
A PZEV gasoline car with good fuel efficiency is good enough.

Amuro Ray

@ Nigel,

"You're going to hear stories about Leaf and other electrics stuck on the side of the road. You're not going to hear that about the Volt unless someone is stupid enough to run out of gas..."

What kind of logic is that? 1 type of vehicle get stick, and that's "natural," and the other type that get stick, that's "stupidity?"

Those who purchase EVs know about the range, and if they do get stuck - they are stupid too. Oh, and 1 more thg - MANY drivers who drive regular cars got stuck on the side of the road, simply 'coz they went out of gas, too! I don't see how the Volt will be immune to THAT...


I am with you on the previous generation Prius. The 2010 is a considerably improved vehicle from the driver's perspective.

@ Amuro

The point was there are a LOT more gasoline stations available en-route than electric recharging stations - at least for now.

Amuro Ray

@ Nigel,

But that doesn't prevent anyone from getting stuck - stupid or not, and what type of vehicle they drive. Otherwise, you should NEVER see any gasoline powered car ran out of gas, right?

The point is, EV will unlikely to get stuck running out of energy, if YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING.

Ken L.

Here's a free tip for GM, et. al when working on future electric cars. So instead of putting a ICE engine in a supposedly electric vehicle to reduce the "Range Anxiety" of plug ins after the battery runs out, why not find a way to convert the peddles in the car into a 4 wheel bicycle car of some sort? I'm sure we've all seen or heard of electric/and or gas electric powered bicycles already. This would be a similar concept, only the driver/and or passenger would be peddling to move the car by constantly depressing on the accelerator or some other method of mimicking the circular motion of peddling. With all the on board electric motors, generators, converters, etc. that these cars already have, the engineers simply needs to figure out a way to get the accelerator peddle to work as they do in regular cars, and then switched over to power a generator so that it can recharge a low battery to power the electric motor for power assist. Top speed would be limited to what a spare tire would achieve, and of course, it has to be as easy as riding a bike. Had the Volt came out with this feature, GM would've won tons of accolades. What a concept, huh? The Flintstone way, sort of.


Mobile re-chargers for electric cars. You run out of battery power and the tow truck pulls up with it's mobile charger and gives you a boost so that you can get to a place to charge it. Just like a jump start. Now some entrepeneur go run with that one.

Jordan L

Ken, The amount of elecrical power required to move the volt would far exceed anything a human could generate turning a generator with their feet. At the Telus World of Science in Edmonton, Alberta there is an excersise bike hooked up to a generator to demonstrate that concept. You would be suprised the effort it takes to keep a 60 watt bulb going.


@Amuro Ray
Pretty high and mighty words, lot of pro-carb propaganda you like to spew there. Sure it's ZEV, just like the power plants that generate the power for those batteries right? Oh wait... that's right 53% of the power in the US is from coal. C.A.R.B. has always been a sick joke perpetrated on the Californian people. Ridiculous nonsensical standards with no justification whatsoever. You can't even put a more efficient engine in a car if it's older than your car, what a joke. The golf TDI for example I'm sure causes less pollution than these ZEV cars getting their power from coal burning power plants. I guess that doesn't matter though right? because it's probably someone else's problem since that power plant is probably in another state.

Amuro Ray


ARE YOU 4 REAL? Please study the effects of power plants and car emission - at a university level - before making your nonsense statement.

This is what happen when you don't study.

The GOLF TDI causes way more pollution than ZEV because
(1) It uses organic fuel, and that means 100% pollutants. Most of them are filtered out by the exhaust, but that's not 100% filtered, and depends on how well u maintain your exhaust.
(2) EVEN IF the entire world is driving GOLF TDI, I CAN GUARANTEE THAT IT WON'T CAUSE THE CLOSURE OF ANY COAL POWER PLANT! Now you've 2 sources of pollution.
(3) It's NOT the auto industries that encourage our gov't to use coal power plants. It's the gov't. Why do u put the blame on the auto manufacturers, especially when they are actually trying to minimize the effect by producing real ZEVs? Will ZEVs run on hydro power plant or wind power plant? Sure they will! SO write to your senator and congress person and urge them to build those plants, u idiot.
(4) More efficient engine not always equate to clean engine, don't u understand? If you do have a college degree, and your major is in science or engineering, you would have learned that the best efficiency an ICE can achieve in current technology is around 3X%. That's IT! 3X%! In addition, in order to have the lowest exhaust pollutants, you'll have to have everything running in their best condition at all times. Sadly, with a 3X% efficiency, it is a guarantee to have pollutants when using organic fuels. Diesel is the worst of fuel; it produces more harmful pollutants than gasoline and requires special exhaust to minimize its effects, which is why CARB and many other states that adopt CARB have prohibit the use of diesel for a long time. You can't to anythg to the fuel - that's the chemistry of it. Now, compare to electric engine, which has a 97% efficiency, uses no "fuel" and has zero emission - no brainer.
(5) It's not a sick joke if you never have any following problems:
- respiratory disease;
- acid rain;
- smog (v. common in San Jose and Los Angeles in the 90's);



California's power mix: Under 30% coal, over a third zero emissions, the rest pretty much natural gas.

End result: EVs MUCH cleaner than ICE.

thanks for your info…nice article…this is very helpfull for me… :)

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