Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano announced Feb. 9 that three models of small hybrid cars will be permitted to use car pool lanes on select freeways, the Associated Press reports. The federally authorized pilot project will allow the Honda Insight, Honda Civic Hybrid and Toyota Prius to use 73 miles of high-occupancy vehicle lanes, but owners will be required to get new plates and special permits before riding. The state plans to issue 10,000 of these permits on a first-come first-serve basis, which should accommodate the 9,000 of these models currently registered in Arizona. The three hybrid vehicles were selected under a fuel-efficiency criterion that requires at least 45 percent fuel savings over non-hybrid versions of the same model. However, some alternative-fuel vehicles that are currently allowed to use HOV lanes under state law will be banned because they do not conform to federal restrictions. Bi-fuel vehicles such as those that run on gas/ethanol or gas/compressed natural gas have been criticized because they were converted only so that the purchasers could qualify for tax breaks, the AP report said. The program is to take effect immediately after a 90-day phase in period, and is scheduled to go on indefinitely while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency works out the permanent rules on the use of the lanes.
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