The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) issues Clean Air Vehicle (CAV) decals that allow vehicles meeting specified emissions standards single occupancy use of High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV or carpool) lanes.
CARB establishes the official list of eligible vehicles based upon vehicle emissions.
CAV Decal History & Legislation
The California legislature adopted programs outlined below to allow single occupancy use of select advanced clean cars in carpool lanes to promote the purchase and lease of the cleanest models. CAV decals are issued by the DMV to qualifying vehicles pursuant to CVC §§5205.5 and 21655.9.
2023 Green Decals for First-Time Applications
Assembly Bill (AB) 544, signed into law in October 2017, put into place a new program beginning January 1, 2019 that continues to allow single-occupant use of carpool lanes for qualifying vehicles. The color for these new decals has changed every year, starting with purple for 2019, orange for 2020, blue for 2021, yellow for 2022, and green for 2023. Learn more
Income-Based (IB) CAV Decal Program
Senate Bill (SB) 957, signed into law in September 2018 authorizes a program beginning January 1, 2020 for CAV decals to be available to new owners of qualifying used vehicles, if specific requirements are met. Learn more on DMV's website.
Expired Legacy Decal Programs
White decals are no longer being issued, and are no longer valid as of January 1, 2019. They were available to an unlimited number of qualifying zero emission vehicles (ZEVs). Vehicles that qualified were 100% battery electric or hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles. The White decal program also included certain alternative-fueled vehicles, such as advanced CNG that were certified to California's most stringent emission standards at that time. All vehicles also met the United States EPA ILEV standard for fuel vapor emissions.
- This law was initially enacted in 1999 (AB 71) with an original expiration date of January 1, 2008
- The expiration date was first extended in 2006 to January 1, 2011
- The expiration date was extended a second time in 2010 to January 1, 2015
- The expiration date was extended a third time to January 1, 2017
- The final expiration date of this program was extended (AB 266) to January 1, 2019
Original Green Decals
Original green decals are no longer being issued and are no longer valid as of January 1, 2019. They were originally available to the first 40,000 applicants that purchased or leased cars meeting California's TZEV requirement, also known as the enhanced advanced technology partial zero emission vehicle (AT PZEV)* requirement. Vehicles that potentially qualified were plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. Not all plug-in hybrid vehicles met these requirements.
- Green decals were originally available to the first 40,000 applicants
- Per budget trailer bill, SB 853 (Statutes 2014, chapter 27), the green decal limit was increased by 15,000 to 55,000 decals effective July 1, 2014
- Per AB 2013, effective January 1, 2015, an additional 15,000 decals were available for a new maximum of 70,000
- Per SB-838, and effective as of September 13, 2016, the green decal statutory limit was removed
- Per AB 266, the expiration date of green decals was extended to January 1, 2019
Original Yellow Decals for Hybrids
Yellow decals were issued to early models of qualifying hybrid vehicles and are different from the yellow decals issued in 2022. The California legislature limited the time of this early hybrid vehicle program to help promote and encourage the development and rapid adoption of hybrid technologies. These decals were limited to the first 85,000 qualified applicants and are no longer valid. These vehicles cannot qualify for any other type of Clean Air Vehicle decal.
- This law was initially enacted in 2004 (AB 2628) with an original expiration date of January 1, 2008
- The final expiration date for Yellow decals was extended in 2006 to January 1, 2011 (AB 2600)
Further Decal Program Information
The Impact of Federal Authorization on Individual State Decal Programs
States wishing to allow certain vehicles with a single occupant access to HOV lanes must have federal authorization to do this. California has historically received this authority through the different federal transportation bills but the Federal government reserves the right to disallow programs that impact the intended purpose of HOV lanes.
Neighborhood Electric Vehicles
"Neighborhood" electric vehicles, smaller, lighter, and more basic four-wheeled vehicles, are ZEVs certified to a special US DOT safety standard. This standard only allow their use on roads with posted speed limits of 35 MPH or less. Due to this restriction, they have not been eligible to receive a CAV decal. Use of these vehicles on ANY road or freeway with posted speed limits above 35 MPH can result in a citation, regardless of the speed at which traffic may actually be operating.