From: Lisa Mascaro, Daily News, Los Angeles
Published January 6, 2005 12:00 AM

Solo Drivers of Hybrids to Gain from California Bill

Jan. 6--Sen. Dianne Feinstein announced Wednesday she will introduce legislation allowing solo motorists to drive hybrid cars in California's freeway car-pool lanes.

The state Legislature passed a bill last year to allow drivers of hybrids that get 45 mpg or better to travel solo in the high-occupancy vehicle lanes. Before the law can take effect, it requires congressional approval because federal money is used to build car-pool lanes.

"Hybrid vehicles are the wave of the future, and we should be doing everything we can to encourage their use," Feinstein, D-Calif., said in a statement.

"Changing the law to allow these hybrid vehicles to use diamond lanes certainly makes sense. I hope that the Senate will act on this legislation quickly."

The first day senators can propose legislation is Jan. 24.

Feinstein's proposal would allow California and other states to set their own regulations for allowing hybrid vehicles into the car-pool lanes, which are typically reserved for cars with two or more occupants.

Under California's newly passed law, hybrids achieving a 45 mpg fuel efficiency would qualify -- at this point, only the Toyota Prius and Honda's Civic and Insight.

Automakers have opposed setting minimum fuel efficiency, saying that new hybrids coming onto the market that don't get 45 mpg, such as the Ford Escape sport utility vehicle and the Lexus RX400H, should also enjoy the perk.

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