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With New Guidelines for HOV Exemptions, EPA Puts Clean and Efficient Technologies in the Fast Lane

EPA is proposing criteria for certifying vehicles as clean and energy efficient to guide states that choose to allow such vehicles on high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes -- even when the vehicles have only one occupant. The proposal, which was required by The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), is designed to spur the purchase and use of vehicles that are better for the environment and energy security.

The proposal applies to cars, SUVs, vans and trucks below 8,500 pounds. To be eligible for the HOV exemption, these vehicles would be required to meet specifications for both low emissions and energy-efficiency.

To be considered low emission, EPA proposes that a vehicle would have to be certified to either the stringent federal Tier 2 bin 5 standard (or cleaner) or the equally stringent California LEV II standards.

To be considered energy efficient, EPA proposes that a vehicle would have to be:
  • A dedicated alternative fuel vehicle, or
  • A hybrid vehicle achieving 50 percent or better in-city fuel economy or 25 percent or better in combined city/highway fuel economy compared to a similar gasoline fueled vehicle.
Any changes to HOV programs as a result of this proposal would be implemented by the Department of Transportation and enforced by the individual states that choose to allow HOV exemptions. States can opt to toughen EPA's criteria, but may not reduce them.

The SAFETEA-LU provision allowing states to adopt HOV exemptions is currently set to expire Sept. 30, 2009.

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