California Laws and Incentives for Vehicle Owner/Driver

The list below contains summaries of all California laws and incentives related to Vehicle Owner/Driver.

State Incentives

Alternative Fuel and Vehicle Incentives

The California Energy Commission (CEC) administers the Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program (ARFVTP) to provide financial incentives for businesses, vehicle and technology manufacturers, workforce training partners, fleet owners, consumers, and academic institutions with the goal of developing and deploying alternative and renewable fuels and advanced transportation technologies. The CEC must prepare and adopt an annual Investment Plan for the ARFVTP to establish funding priorities and opportunities that reflect program goals and to describe how program funding will be used to complement other public and private investments. Funded projects include:

  • Commercial alternative fuel vehicle (AFV) demonstrations and deployment;
  • Alternative and renewable fuel production;
  • Research and development of alternative and renewable fuels and innovative technologies;
  • AFV manufacturing;
  • Workforce training; and
  • Public education, outreach, and promotion.
For more information, see the ARFVTP website. (Reference Assembly Bill 8, 2013; California Vehicle Code 5205.5; California Health and Safety Code 44270-44274.7; and California Code of Regulations, Title 13, Chapter 8.1)

High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) and High Occupancy Toll (HOT) Lane Exemption

Compressed natural gas (CNG), hydrogen, electric, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) meeting specified California and federal emissions standards and affixed with a California Department of Motor Vehicles Clean Air Vehicle sticker may use HOV lanes regardless of the number of occupants in the vehicle. White Clean Air Vehicle Stickers are available to an unlimited number of qualifying CNG, hydrogen, and electric vehicles. Green Clean Air Vehicle Stickers are available for the first 40,000 applicants that purchase or lease a qualified PHEV. Both stickers will expire January 1, 2019, or until federal authorization for HOV lane access expires. These vehicles are also exempt from toll charges imposed on HOT lanes, unless prohibited by federal law. For more information, including a list of qualifying vehicles, see the California Air Resources Board Carpool Lane Use Stickers website. (Reference Assembly Bills 266 and 286, 2013, and California Vehicle Code 5205.5 and 21655.9)

Voluntary Vehicle Retirement Incentives

Through the California Bureau of Automotive Repair's Consumer Assistance Program (CAP), the owner of a motor vehicle that fails the California smog check inspection may receive $1,000 to retire the vehicle from operation. Owners meeting low income eligibility requirements may receive $1,500. An eligible vehicle must be registered without substantial lapse in the state for at least two years prior to retirement. The owner must retire the vehicle at a dismantler under contract with the Bureau. The Bureau also offers financial assistance of up to $500 toward emissions-related repairs. For more information, including application materials, see the CAP website.

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) administers the Enhanced Fleet Modernization Program (EFMP) to augment the CAP. The EFMP provides incentives of at least $1,000 for the voluntary retirement of eligible high polluting passenger vehicles and light- and medium-duty trucks. For more information, see the ARB EFMP website.

No later than June 30, 2015, CARB and the Bureau must update the EFMP guidelines to implement changes that include increased compensation for low-income vehicle owners and steps to ensure the vehicle replacement program is available in areas designated as federal extreme nonattainment.

(Reference Senate Bill 459, 2013; and California Health and Safety Code 44062.3 and 44125)

Emissions Reductions Grants

The Carl Moyer Memorial Air Quality Standards Attainment Program (Program) provides incentives to cover the incremental cost of purchasing engines and equipment that are cleaner than required by law. Eligible projects include heavy-duty fleet modernization, light-duty vehicle replacements and retrofits, idle reduction technology, and off-road vehicle and equipment purchases. The Program provides funds for significant near-term reductions in nitrogen oxide emissions, reactive organic gases, and particulate matter emissions. Funding is available until January 1, 2024. Contact local air districts for more information about grant funding availability and distribution. Also see the Program website.

The California Air Resources Board, in consultation with local air districts, must convene working groups no later than July 1, 2014, to evaluate the Program's policies and goals.

(Reference Assembly Bill 8, 2013, and California Health and Safety Code 44275-44299.2)

Point of Contact
Diesel Hotline
California Air Resources Board
Phone: (866) 6DIESEL (634-3735)

Heavy-Duty Vehicle Emissions Reduction Grants

The Goods Movement Emission Reduction Program (Program) provides funding for projects that reduce emissions from freight movement in the state, including heavy-duty truck replacement, repower, or retrofit; and truck stop electrification infrastructure development. For more information about funding application opportunities, see the Program website. (Reference California Health and Safety Code 39625-39627.5)

Point of Contact
Goods Movement Emission Reduction Program
California Air Resources Board
Phone: (916) 44-GOODS (444-6637)

Vehicle Emissions Reduction Grants - Sacramento

The Sacramento Emergency Clean Air and Transportation (SECAT) Program provides grants to offset the costs of projects that reduce on-road emissions within the Sacramento federal ozone nonattainment area. Eligible projects include upgrades and exchanges of heavy-duty diesel vehicles with 2002 or older engines. Other advanced technology implementation projects may also qualify. For more information, including current funding opportunities, see the SECAT website. (Reference California Health and Safety Code 44299.50-44299.55)

Point of Contact
Kristian Damkier
Associate Air Quality Engineer
Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District
Phone: (916) 874-4892
Fax: (916) 874-4899

Natural Gas Vehicle (NGV) Home Fueling Infrastructure Incentive - South Coast

South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) residents may be eligible for up to $2,000 toward the purchase and installation of a qualified Phill NGV home fueling appliance. SCAQMD and the Mobile Source Air Pollution Reduction Review Committee provide funding for the program, which will continue until funds have been exhausted. For more information, refer to the SCAQMD Funding Opportunities website.

Hybrid and Zero Emission Truck and Bus Vouchers - San Joaquin Valley

The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (SJVAPCD) contributed funds to the California Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project (HVIP) for eligible vehicles used in the eight-county San Joaquin Valley Air Basin. These "plus-up" vouchers range from $12,000 to $30,000, depending on the vehicle, and are in addition to California Air Resources Board voucher amounts. Vehicles must be domiciled in the air basin 100% of the time for at least three years. For more information, see the San Joaquin Valley Plus-Up website.

Alternative Fuel and Advanced Vehicle Rebate - San Joaquin Valley

The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (SJVAPCD) administers the Drive Clean! Rebate Program, which provides rebates for the purchase or lease of eligible new vehicles, including qualified natural gas, propane, and plug-in electric vehicles. The program offers rebates of up to $3,000, which are available on a first-come, first-served basis for residents and businesses located in the SJVAPCD that purchase a qualified vehicle on or after March 15, 2012. For more information, including a list of eligible vehicles and other requirements, see the SJVAPCD Drive Clean! Rebate Program website.

Low Emission Vehicle Incentives and Technical Training - San Joaquin Valley

The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (SJVAPCD) administers the REMOVE II program, which provides incentives for cost-effective projects that result in motor vehicle emissions reductions and long-term impacts on air pollution in the San Joaquin Valley. As of November 2013, REMOVE II is providing funding for vanpool agencies that reduce or replace single occupant vehicle commutes in the San Joaquin Valley. To participate, vanpool agencies must submit an application to SJVAPCD and sign a contract to become a Vanpool Voucher Incentive Program partner. REMOVE II also includes an Alternative Fuel Vehicle (AFV) Mechanic Training Component that provides incentives to educate personnel on the mechanics, operation safety, and maintenance of AFVs, fueling stations, and tools involved in the implementation of alternative fuel technologies. For more information, see the REMOVE II website and the AFV Mechanic Training Component website.

Utility/Private Incentives

Propane Vehicle Rebates - Western Propane Gas Association (WPGA)

The WPGA offers rebates of $500 for the purchase of a new propane vehicle or the conversion of an existing vehicle to operate on propane. In addition, WPGA offers rebates for 20% of the purchase or conversion price of a new propane commercial mower, up to $2,500. Rebates are available through December 31, 2014, or when program funds are exhausted. For more information, see the WPGA New Propane Vehicle and Commercial Mower Rebate Programs website.

Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) Rebate - LADWP

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) provides rebates to commercial and residential customers toward the purchase of Level 2 or DC fast charge EVSE. Commercial customers who purchase and install EVSE for employee and public use can receive $750, $1,000, or $15,000, depending on the charger type. Residential customers who purchase or lease qualifying plug-in electric vehicles can receive $750. EVSE must be installed within the LADWP service area; rebates do not cover the cost of installation. Rebates are available to the first 2,000 approved customers. The program will be in effect through June 30, 2015, or until funds are exhausted, whichever occurs first. For program guidelines and application materials, see the Charge Up L.A.! website.

Plug-In Electric Vehicle (PEV) Charging Rate Reduction - SMUD

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) offers three discounted pricing plans to residential customers who charge PEVs. Options include time-of-use, whole house, and dedicated meter plans. For more information, see the SMUD PEV Pricing Plans website.

Plug-In Electric Vehicle (PEV) Charging Rate Reduction - LADWP

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) offers a $0.025 per kilowatt discount for electricity used to charge PEVs during off-peak times. Residential customers who install a separate time-of-use meter panel will also receive a $250 credit. For more information, see the LADWP Electric Vehicle Incentives website.

Plug-In Electric Vehicle (PEV) Charging Rate Reduction - SCE

Southern California Edison (SCE) offers a discounted rate to customers for electricity used to charge PEVs. Two rate schedules are available for PEV charging during on- and off-peak hours, the Home & Electric Vehicle Plan and the Electric Vehicle Plan. For more information, see the SCE Electric Vehicle Residential Rates website.

Clean Vehicle Electricity and Natural Gas Rate Reduction - PG&E

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) offers a discounted Residential Time-of-Use rate for electricity used for plug-in electric vehicle charging and natural gas vehicle (NGV) home fueling appliances. Special rates are also available for natural gas that residential customers compress using home fueling appliances. For more information, see the PG&E EV Rate Options and NGV Rates websites.

Plug-In Electric Vehicle (PEV) and Natural Gas Infrastructure Charging Rate Reduction - SDG&E

San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) offers lower rates to customers for electricity used to charge PEVs. SDG&E's PEV Time-of-Use rates are available in two variations: EV-TOU-2 bills home and vehicle electricity use on a single meter; and EV-TOU bills vehicle electricity use separately, requiring the installation of a second meter. Lower rates are also available to customers who own a natural gas vehicle and use a qualified compressed natural gas fueling appliance at home. For more information about PEV Time-of-Use rates, see the SDG&E EV Rates and NGV Rates website.

Natural Gas Rate Reduction - SoCalGas

Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) offers natural gas at discounted rates to customers fueling natural gas vehicles (NGVs). Schedule G-NGVR, Natural Gas Service for Home Refueling of Motor Vehicles, is available to residential customers; G-NGV, Natural Gas Service for Motor Vehicles, is available to commercial customers. For more information, see the SoCalGas NGVs website.

Alternative Fuel Vehicle (AFV) and Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) Insurance Discount

Farmers Insurance provides a discount of up to 10% on all major insurance coverage for HEV and AFV owners. To qualify, the automobile must be a dedicated AFV using ethanol, compressed natural gas, propane, or electricity, or be a HEV. A complete vehicle identification number is required to validate vehicle eligibility. For more information, see the Farmers California Insurance Discounts website.

Laws and Regulations

Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) Open Access Requirements

EVSE service providers may not charge a subscription fee or require membership for use of their public charging stations. In addition, providers must disclose the actual charges for using public EVSE at the point of sale; allow at least two options for payment; and disclose the EVSE geographic location, schedule of fees, accepted methods of payment, and network roaming charges to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Exceptions apply.

If a national standards organization has not adopted interoperability billing standards by January 1, 2015, the California Air Resources Board may adopt such standards for network roaming payment methods for EVSE. Providers would be required to meet these standards within one year of adoption.

(Reference Senate Bill 454, 2013)

Mandatory Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) Building Standards

The California Building Standards Commission (Commission) must adopt, approve, codify, and publish mandatory building standards for the installation of EVSE in parking spaces at multi-family dwellings and non-residential developments in the next edition of the California Building Standards Code, to be adopted after January 1, 2014. The Department of Housing and Community Development (Department) must provide the Commission with proposed standards for multi-family dwellings. The Commission and Department must use specified sections of the California Green Building Standards Code as a starting point for the standards and engage interested parties for further input. (Reference Assembly Bill 1092, 2013)

Alternative Fuel Vehicle (AFV) Parking Incentive Programs

The California Department of General Services (DGS) and California Department of Transportation (DOT) must develop and implement AFV parking incentive programs in public parking facilities operated by DGS with 50 or more parking spaces and park-and-ride lots owned and operated by DOT. The incentives must provide meaningful and tangible benefits to drivers, such as preferential spaces, reduced fees, and fueling infrastructure. Fueling infrastructure built at park-and-ride lots is not subject to restricted use by those using bicycles, public transit, or ridesharing. (Reference California Public Resources Code 25722.9)

Plug-In Electric Vehicle (PEV) Parking Regulation

An individual may not stop, stand, or park a motor vehicle, or otherwise block access to parking, in a stall or space designated for the exclusive purpose of charging a PEV unless the vehicle displays a valid state-issued zero emission vehicle (ZEV) decal and is connected for electric charging purposes. For the ZEV decal application, see the California Department of Motor Vehicles ZEV Parking Decal Application website. (Reference California Vehicle Code 22511)

Alternative Fuel and Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle Retrofit Regulations

Converting a vehicle to operate on an alternative fuel in lieu of the original gasoline or diesel fuel is prohibited unless the California Air Resources Board (ARB) has evaluated and certified the retrofit system. ARB will issue certification to the manufacturer of the system in the form of an Executive Order once the manufacturer demonstrates compliance with the emissions, warranty, and durability requirements. A manufacturer is defined as a person or company who manufactures or assembles an alternative fuel retrofit system for sale in California; this definition does not include individuals wishing to convert vehicles for personal use. Individuals interested in converting their vehicles to operate on an alternative fuel must ensure that the alternative fuel retrofit systems used for their vehicles have been ARB certified. For more information, see the ARB Alternative Fuel Retrofit System website.

A hybrid electric vehicle that is Model Year 2000 or newer and is a passenger car, light-duty truck, or medium-duty vehicle may be converted to incorporate off-vehicle charging capability if the manufacturer demonstrates compliance with emissions, warranty, and durability requirements. ARB issues certification to the manufacturer and the vehicle must meet California emissions standards for the model year of the original vehicle.

ARB is considering amendments to the alternative fuel certification procedures for new and in-use vehicles and engines. For more information, see the Proposed Amendments website. (Reference California Code of Regulations Title 13, Section 2030-2032, and California Vehicle Code 27156)

Alternative Fuel Tax

The excise tax imposed on compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied natural gas (LNG), and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG or propane) used to operate a vehicle can be paid through an annual flat rate sticker tax based on the following vehicle weights:

Unladen WeightFee
All passenger cars and other vehicles 4,000 pounds (lbs.) or less$36
More than 4,000 lbs. but less than 8,001 lbs.$72
More than 8,000 lbs. but less than 12,001 lbs.$120
12,001 lbs. or more$168

Alternatively, owners and operators may pay an excise tax on CNG of $0.07 per 100 cubic feet measured at standard pressure and temperature, $0.06 per gallon of LNG, and $0.06 per gallon of propane. The excise tax on ethanol and methanol fuel blends containing up to 15% gasoline or diesel fuel is half of the current tax on gasoline and diesel.

(Reference California Revenue and Taxation Code 8651-8651.8)

Heavy-Duty Truck Idle Reduction Requirements

A driver of a diesel-fueled vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds may not idle the vehicle's primary engine for more than five minutes at any location, and is not allowed to operate a diesel-fueled auxiliary power system (APS) on the vehicle for more than five minutes when located within 100 feet of a restricted area. Exceptions apply in certain situations and for certain vehicles. Any internal combustion APS used in California must comply with applicable state off-road and/or federal non-road emissions standards and test procedures for its fuel type and power category to ensure that emissions do not exceed the emissions of a truck engine operating at idle. Model Year 2008 and newer heavy-duty diesel engines must be equipped with non-programmable engine shutdown systems that automatically shut down the engine after five minutes of idling or optionally meet a stringent nitrogen oxide idling emissions standard. A heavy-duty diesel engine certified for optional idling emissions standards must have a "certified clean idle" label, issued by the engine manufacturer, affixed permanently on the driver's side hood of the truck. Similarly, off-road diesel engine APSs fitted with a proper, verified level 3 diesel particulate filter must have a "verified clean APS" label, issued by the APS manufacturer, affixed permanently on the driver's side hood of the truck.

Operators of trucks equipped with sleeper berths are required to shut down the engine manually when idling more than five minutes at any location within California and are subject to fines for violation. The California Department of Motor Vehicles will not register, renew, or transfer registration for any vehicle operator who has received a violation until the violation is cleared.

For more information, see the California Air Resources Board Heavy-Duty Vehicle Idling Emission Reduction Program website. (Reference California Code of Regulations Title 13, Section 2485)

Idle Reduction Requirement at Schools

A school bus driver must turn off the engine upon stopping at a school, or within 100 feet of a school, and may not turn the engine on more than 30 seconds before departing from the location. When the bus is at least 100 feet away from a school, the driver may not idle the engine for more than five consecutive minutes, or for periods totaling more than five minutes during any one hour period. Transit and commercial vehicle operators may not idle for more than five consecutive minutes at each stop within 100 feet of a school, or for periods totaling more than five minutes during any one hour period. Exemptions apply for necessary idling while stopped in traffic, at traffic signals, and at the direction of law enforcement personnel. For more information, see the California Air Resources Board School Bus Idling Airborne Toxic Control Measure website. (Reference California Code of Regulations Title 13, Section 2480)

Heavy-Duty Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emissions Regulations

Box-type trailers that are at least 53 feet long and the heavy-duty tractors that pull these trailers must be equipped with fuel-efficient tires and aerodynamic trailer devices that improve fuel economy and lower greenhouse gas emissions. Tractors and trailers subject to the regulation must either use U.S. Environmental Protection Agency SmartWay certified tractors and trailers or retrofit existing equipment with SmartWay verified technologies. Vehicle owners must comply with these regulations when operating on California highways regardless of where the vehicles are registered. Exemptions apply for some local- and short-haul tractors and trailers. The compliance schedule depends on the type and age of the tractor or trailer. (Reference California Code of Regulations Title 17, Section 95300-95311)

Point of Contact
Diesel Hotline
California Air Resources Board
Phone: (866) 6DIESEL (634-3735)

Low-Speed Electric Vehicle (EV) Access to Roadways

A low-speed EV, also known as a neighborhood electric vehicle, is defined as a motor vehicle with four wheels, a gross vehicle weight rating of 3,000 pounds or less, and capable of achieving a minimum speed of 20 miles per hour (mph) and a maximum speed of 25 mph. Low-speed EVs are subject to all provisions applicable to a motor vehicle and must meet federal safety standards established in Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations, section 571.500. Drivers of low-speed EVs must comply with all provisions applicable to drivers of motor vehicles. The operator of a low-speed EV may not operate the vehicle on any roadway with a posted speed limit greater than 35 mph except to cross a roadway at an intersection. (Reference California Vehicle Code 385.5 and 21250-21266)

Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV) Access to Roadways

Discussions are encouraged between the California Legislature, the California Department of Motor Vehicles, and the California Highway Patrol regarding the adoption of a new classification for licensing motorists who use NEVs. Additional jurisdictions that may establish NEV transportation plans are as follows:

JurisdictionReport DeadlineNEV Transportation Plan Deadline
Amador County, City of Jackson, City of Sutter Creek, and Amador CityJanuary 1, 2015January 1, 2016
City of FresnoNovember 1, 2014January 1, 2016
Riverside CountyJanuary 1, 2016January 1, 2017
Orange County (Ranch Plan Planned Community)November 1, 2015January 1, 2017

(Reference California Streets and Highways Code 19621966.7)

Vehicle Miles Traveled Tax Feasibility Evaluation

To facilitate a reliable and steady funding mechanism for maintaining and improving surface transportation infrastructure, the California Legislature requests the President and Congress to consider and enact legislation to conduct a feasibility study of the collection process for a transportation revenue source based on vehicle miles traveled. (Reference Assembly Joint Resolution 5, 2011)