How to Get a Carpool Sticker for an Electric car in California

How to Get a Carpool Sticker for an Electric car in California

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The state of California is arguably one of the best places to drive in if you own an electric vehicle. This is mainly because the state legislation allows owners of clean energy vehicles to drive on high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes.

Until the end of 2018, owners of qualifying hybrid and low-emission vehicles were allowed to access carpool lanes as long as their vehicles had a white or green carpool sticker. However, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), which is responsible for administering the Clean Air Vehicle (CAV) decal program, introduced new HOV lane decals for qualifying clean energy vehicles.

The new regulations allow for owners of eligible clean air vehicles that meet specific emission standards to be issued with a new CAV carpool sticker, thereby permitting them to drive on carpool lanes even with single occupancy. The list of vehicles that qualify for the new CAV stickers is determined by the Air Resources Board of the State of California.

How to Successfully Apply for a Carpool Sticker for your Electric Vehicle

The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is the body tasked with issuing all CAV decals in the state of California. To qualify for a new carpool sticker, you must have a new plug-in vehicle and/or have never applied or been issued with a different color sticker in the past. Vehicles which were issued with CAV decals prior to 2017 are no longer eligible to receive carpool stickers under the new CAV decals program.

Here are the necessary steps, and basic requirements that you need to fulfill when making an application for a new CAV decal for your electric vehicle.

  1. Ensure that your vehicle is Eligible for a CAV Decal
    Before making an application for a carpool sticker, it is essential to verify whether your electric vehicle qualifies for a CAV decal, as outlined by the ARB. You can check the ARB website to access the list of cars eligible for a carpool sticker to find out whether your electric vehicle qualifies.
  2. Complete an Application for a CAV Decal
    If your electric car qualifies for a carpool sticker, you will need to complete an application document for the new CAV decal. The application form can be found in PDF format on the DMV website. Remember to include the vehicle’s data on your application form.
  3. Complete Section 1: Vehicle Registration Name and Address
    As mentioned earlier, the address and name on the application should match the details on the registration records. In case you acquire the car from a private dealer, you must wait until the transfer of ownership is complete before you can submit a CAV decal application to the DMV. In essence, only the legal owner of the car is allowed to apply.
  4. Complete Section 2: Original Decals’
    In case you’ve never been issued with a different color HOV lane sticker, you will need to check the box designated original decals’ on your application form. You also need to check the boxes for your EV’s motive power and exhaust standard. You can also find this information on the ARB website if you are not well versed with your car’s specifications.
  5. Complete Section 3: Telephone Number and Signature
    You will be required to submit your personal telephone number, and provide an original signature. In case you are applying for a carpool sticker for a company/business vehicle, you must include the name of the company or business and a countersignature of the company’s representative. This helps in proving the existence of the company.
  6. Submit the Application
    After completing the application process, you need to verify your details to make sure that all information provided is correct. Thereafter, you can submit your application to the address contained on the form. This is very crucial, as you may be disqualified for not fulfilling any of the basic requirements, or providing false, or inaccurate data.

At the end of the process, you will only be charged a fee of $22. This is relatively cheap, as compared to benefits that you stand to gain as an electric car owner. Moreover, once your application is approved, you won’t be required to pay any additional fees, unless otherwise.

What are the New Decal Colors and Expiration Dates?

Since the beginning of January 2019, only vehicles issued with the red or purple carpool stickers were allowed to drive on HOV lanes. The CAV decals are offered to cars that fulfill the state’s ultra-low emission (SULEV) standards, as well as the ILEV standards. Most vehicles that meet these basic standards are mostly electric cars.

Moreover, non-electric cars can also be eligible for CAV decals as long as they meet the state’s AT PZEV or the TZEV standards. Some vehicles that use (CNG) compressed natural gas and (LPG)liquid petroleum gas may also be eligible for the new current CAV decals.

However, (ULEVs) ultra low emission cars will no longer be eligible for an HOV lane sticker. If you are wondering whether your car meets the minimum emission requirements for an HOV lane sticker, you can check the full list of eligible vehicles on the ARB website.

The red CAV decal was first issued in 2018. Vehicles that were which were issued with this sticker are eligible to drive on HOV lanes until the decal expires in January 2022. The purple CAV decal, on the other hand, was first issued in January 2019 and is valid until January 2023.

What are the Requirements for Applying for a CAV Carpool Sticker?

In order for your application of an HOV lane decal to be considered valid, it must bear your name as presented on the on the vehicle’s registration documents. This means you can’t use a relative’s or a friend’s details to apply for a CAV decal.

In case you purchased the vehicle from a dealership, you need to wait until the transfer of ownership is completed by the DMV. If you submit an application before the transfer of ownership has been completed, the application will be returned to you unprocessed,’ and you will not be eligible for an HOV lane carpool sticker. However, you can resubmit your application to the DMV once the vehicle is registered under your name.

In case you’ve recently moved, and your new address does not match the DMV registration records, you are required to attach a Change of Address’ form to your carpool sticker application before submitting it to the DMV. Alternatively, you may choose to complete an online change of address’ before sending your CAV application to the DMV for processing.

All you need to know when applying for a carpool sticker in California

Interestingly, the local DMV offices do not produce decal stickers or decal ID cards. You should, therefore, ensure that your application is submitted only to the address provided on the application sheet.

Applications for electric vehicle carpool stickers are usually processed according to the order in which they are received. Under normal circumstances, however, you should typically receive your carpool sticker within 30 business days. It is also essential to keep in mind that applying for a carpool decal does not automatically make you eligible for HOV lane single-occupancy access. You should therefore avoid driving as a single occupant on a carpool lane until you receive your CAV decal and affixed it on your car.

The new CAV regulations also factor in the income of applicants for electric vehicle HOV lane stickers. Although California’s Clean Energy Vehicle Rebate (CEVR) is no longer available for single taxpayers with a gross income of $150,000, these owners of plug-in electric cars are still eligible for the new HOV lane sticker. Moreover, heads of households must earn less than $204,000 in order to qualify for carpool stickers, whereas joint filers will need to make less than $300,000 to be considered eligible for the HOV lane sticker.


The state of California has undoubtedly emerged as one of the world’s greatest champion for the adoption of clean energy vehicles. Thanks to its legislative measures designed to curb greenhouse gas emissions, the state has adopted highly innovative measures to promote the purchase and lease of clean energy vehicles.

The introduction of the new CAV program, with its iconic purple carpool sticker for electric vehicle users, ushers in a new era of clean driving in California. The new advanced CAV regulations are expected to phase out the first generation low-emission and hybrid vehicles in favor of more advanced and cleaner zero-emission electric cars. It remains to be seen whether more states will borrow a leaf from California and introduce measures to curb greenhouse emissions.

Meanwhile, owners of electric cars in California have a reason to smile thanks to the new CAV carpool sticker which will grant them single occupancy HOV-lane access. If you have recently purchased one of the latest models of electric vehicles, be sure to apply for a carpool sticker today to enjoy unrestricted access of the HOV lane and whiz through traffic effortlessly.

It sounds good, right?

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