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Arizona ending energy-efficient plate program in March

Posted at 6:19 PM, Jan 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-16 18:00:59-05

PHOENIX — Starting soon there will be fewer hybrids on Arizona’s roads that have the blue and white cloud plates. Not that you may have noticed that many in the first place, but more on that in a moment...

Arizona is ending the Energy Efficient Plate Program on March 2. The reason given by the Department of Transportation is that congress failed to extend a deadline on a law that expired in September of last year that authorized the unrestricted use of HOV lanes by certain hybrid vehicles.

Arizona’s program began in 2007, but was capped at 10,000 participants, a limit that was reached the very next year. The program allowed for those that were fortunate enough to make it into the program to transfer their plates to newer qualifying vehicles. The program did open briefly to new participants in 2011 and again in 2015.

ADOT posted on their website that current owners are allowed to use continue to use the HOV lane in their current vehicles, but the plate will no longer be transferred with the title.

With the program ending, will traffic on Arizona’s HOV lanes improve at all?

The short answer is -- no. The reason for this is simple: Arizona’s second unrestricted HOV plate program has exploded in popularity for one reason: Tesla.

ABC15 analyzed the 34,307 Energy Efficiency and Alternative Fuel plate vehicles on Arizona’s roads provided to us by the Arizona Department of Transportation. Of these, only 18%, or 6,104 vehicles, were of the type covered by the Energy Efficiency Plate program. Meanwhile, 18,539 plates were assigned to Pure Electric Vehicles (PEV) that are covered under the Alternative Fuels Plate program.

The Electric Vehicle Dominance of the HOV Plate Programs

While other fuel types such as compressed natural gas and propane are covered under Arizona’s Alternative Fuel Plate Program, Pure Electric Vehicles (PEV), commercially available vehicles that are powered solely by an electric motor, are by far the largest fuel type in the program. Of the PEVs in Arizona, the dominant registered vehicle make in the state is Tesla.

In fact, Tesla’s share of registered PEVs in Arizona is around 72%. This is driven largely by the introduction of the Model 3 in 2017, which by itself makes up almost 40%. The next largest electric vehicle manufacturer is Nissan with only 14% of registered electric vehicles. This is also not likely to change any time soon as Tesla made up 90% of all new vehicles entering the Alternative Fuel Program in 2019.

One of the primary reasons for Tesla’s dominance of the Arizona electric car market is that Arizonans have a very limited menu of options for electric cars in the state.

Of all the electric vehicle makers in the country, only Audi, BMW, Chevrolet, Jaguar, Nissan, and Tesla market new electric vehicles in the state. Most auto makers sell their electric vehicles exclusively in states that are a part of the California Air Resource Board ZEV program, which mandates the sale of zero emission vehicles. Because of this, the median price for new electric vehicle in Arizona is $60,917, significantly higher than the median of $39,560 in California, or $34,217, the average price of a new car in the United Sates regardless of fuel type.

The numbers aren’t just high in the new car market either. The average value of a used electric car in Arizona is $35,218, a full $15,000 higher than the average value of a used car in the United States according to Kelley Blue Book.

While the number of vehicles in the Energy Efficient Plate Program slowly dwindles to zero, expect to see more Teslas on the road to take their place in the HOV lane.