Clean Air Vehicle Decal History & Legislation
The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) administers this program in partnership with the California Air Resources Board, with DMV issuing Clean Air Vehicle (CAV) decals (decals or carpool stickers) to eligible vehicles.
Assembly Bill 544, signed into law in October 2017, puts into place a new program (beginning January 1, 2019) that continues to allow eligible single-occupant vehicles into carpool lanes. Clean Air Vehicle decals issued on or after January 1, 2019, are valid until January 1 of the fourth year after the year of issuance.
The color for these decals will change every year, starting with Purple for 2019.
Purple decals expire on January 1, 2023 and are now being issued by the California DMV to qualifying vehicles pursuant to CVC §§5205.5 and 21655.9. There are income requirements and other details regarding this new decal program.
These decals are issued to vehicles that meet California's super ultra-low emission vehicle (SULEV) standard for exhaust emissions and the federal inherently low-emission vehicle (ILEV) evaporative emission standard. Vehicles that meet these standards are typically battery or hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles. Also eligible are vehicles that meet the state’s transitional zero emission vehicle (TZEV) standard. Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and compressed natural gas (CNG) fueled vehicles may also qualify. Ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs) are no longer eligible to participate in the decal program after January 1, 2019.
Visit the main Carpool Sticker page for more information about this current program.
Red decals are no longer being issued to new vehicles, but are valid until January 1, 2022. These decals were issued (per AB 544) to qualifying vehicles pursuant to CVC §§5205.5 and 21655.9. There were income requirements and other details regarding this decal program. Please note that older CNG ULEV vehicles originally included in the White decal program were not qualified for the Red decal program.
Qualifying vehicles originally issued a White or Green decal in 2017 or 2018 are still eligible to apply for the Red decal.
Vehicles issued a White or Green decal prior to 2017, are not eligible to apply for the Red decal.
The Purple decal superseded this program for new eligible vehicles on January 1, 2019.
Issued to: Zero Emission and CNG Vehicles
White decals are no longer being issued, but are valid until January 1, 2019 (per AB 266). They were available to an unlimited number of qualifying Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEVs) and certain advanced CNG vehicles. Vehicles that typically met these requirements were 100% battery electric or hydrogen (H2) fuel cell vehicles. The White decal program also included certain alternative-fueled vehicles, such as advanced compressed natural gas (CNG) that were certified to California's most stringent emission standards at that time. All vehicles also met the United States EPA Inherently Low Emission Vehicle or 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.
Issued to: Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles
Green decals are no longer being issued, but are valid until January 1, 2019 (per AB 266). They were originally available to the first 40,000 applicants that purchased or leased cars meeting California's transitional zero emission vehicles (TZEV) requirement, also known as the enhanced advanced technology partial zero emission vehicle (AT PZEV)* requirement. Per SB 286, the expiration date for the green decals was extended to January 1, 2019. 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. The expiration date of this program was extended (AB 286) to January 1, 2019.
Qualifying vehicles met the Transitional Zero Emission Vehicle or TZEV requirement, including:
Meeting California's most stringent tailpipe emission standard
Having zero evaporative emissions
Having a 15 yr/150K mile warranty on the emissions system and;
Having a 10 yr/150K warranty on the zero emission energy storage system.
Not all plug-in hybrid vehicles met these requirements.
Expired Legacy Decal Programs
Yellow decals were issued to early models of qualifying hybrid vehicles. 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 High Occupancy vehicle 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 cannot be issued the California HOV lane access sticker. 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.
Transfer or Replacement Clean Air Vehicle Decals
All decals remain with the vehicle they were originally issued to and cannot be transferred to any other vehicle. If you purchase a vehicle that has a decal, you may transfer the decal to your name. Refer to Frequently Asked Questions on the Department of Motor Vehicles website for more information.