A couple weeks ago I blogged about the HOV lanes in California. Government regulation could create a big incentive for Californians to buy the Ford C-Max Energi. Here’s why. The Prius hybrid cannot be driven in HOV lanes (with just the driver) because the Yellow Clean Air Stickers issued by the California State Air Resources board have expired. They are issuing new Green Stickers for electric vehicles that also have gasoline engines, but just 40,000 HOV stickers will be issued. The only vehicles that qualify are the C-Max Energi, Fusion Energi, Chevrolet Volt (2012 and later) and Prius Plug-in. Assuming Ford can get the C-Max Energi shipping to California soon, it would seem like they should be able to sell them easily. All electric vehicles like the Nissan Leaf qualify for a HOV lane White Sticker and there is no limitation on the number of HOV White Stickers to be issued.
Anton Wahlman wrote an article for The Street yesterday where he noted an exception that the California board is making that could apply to the BMW i3. The BMW i3 is going to be released as an EV only and also as an EREV, like the Volt. However, unlike the Volt, the “extended range” gasoline engine/tank will be very small. It is intended to address the “anxiety” that EV owners have about running out of electricity before being able to charge. When the gasoline tank/engine doesn’t propel the car farther than the battery, the BMW i3 would qualify for the White Sticker. The BMW i3 is rumored to have a 22-32 kWh battery, which should allow it to travel about 70-110 miles on a charge. Add a small gasoline generator/tank and it could travel about 140-220 miles. That’s decent range and one could always buy a couple gallons of gasoline when necessary.
Wahlman noted that the exemption was made in January 2012 but the BMW i3 will need to be submitted in 2013 to verify that it qualifies. He suggests the BMW i3 has been engineered to meet the California exception. He also writes that it would require years for GM, Ford or Toyota to create vehicles to meet the exemption.
Wahlman titles his article, “BMW Cuts Off Toyota, GM and Ford in California.” He suggests this BMW move will give them a competitive advantage. At present, PHEV, EREV and EV vehicles are often compared to each other, even though they are very different. To what extent should cars be designed for government regulation? I’ve blogged in the past that I think the C-Max Energi should have been designed with about a 16 kWh battery so it could take full advantage of the Federal Tax Credit of $7,500. From the perspective of designing a car that is competitive in the marketplace based on its own merits, this doesn’t make sense. It needs to be designed to be the best vehicle for the customer rather that government regulators. The C-Max Energi is very close to being this vehicle on it’s merits without the Federal Tax Credit or other government intervention.