The single most coveted prize for a commuter vehicle in California is single-occupant access to the HOV lanes. In order to get one of the stickers that allow you to do this, you have to either purchase a full electric vehicle, or a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle or range extended vehicle like the Chevy Volt, Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid, or Ford C-max Energi and Fusion Energi. However, California has limited carpool stickers to only 40,000 for the PHEV category. The stickers were first offered in the fall of 2012 and some estimate those 40,000 will be gone as soon as the fall of 2013!
After those 40,000 stickers are gone, you’re limited to a full electric vehicle for single occupant access to the HOV lanes. That is, until the BMW i3 is available.
The BMW i3 will be sold in two versions – a full electric version, and a Rex version that has a gasoline range extender. The California Air Resource Board rulebook has a clause that says if a vehicle has a range for the gasoline tank that is less than the all-electric range of the battery, it is essentially classified as an all-electric vehicle.
In a specifications PDF recently released by BMW, the i3 electric range is quoted as 130-160km, or up to 200km in ECO PRO+ mode. The total combined range with the range extender is listed as approximately 300 km, falling in line with the gasoline range extender adding less to the total range than the battery pack.
A preliminary decision about the BMW i3 exception was made in January 2012, but there will be a final verification when BMW delivers the first final, completed, production i3.