Ford's new plug-in hybrid is also good for up to $5,250 in state and federal tax credits.

Ford's new five-passenger C-MAX Energi MPV could become a regular sight in the state's carpool lanes now that the California Air Resources Board has given it the approval to qualify for Green Clean Air Vehicle Stickers.

The stickers, which used to be applicable to any hybrid vehicle, allow drivers to enter carpool lanes regardless of the number of passengers aboard. Other vehicles need to have at least one passenger aboard, depending on where the carpool lane is located. Ford anticipates that CARB's approval of the C-MAX Energi will also incentivize Maryland, New York and Virginia to make the same decision regarding their carpool lanes.

In addition, the sticker qualification means that the C-MAX Energi is also eligible for up a $1,500 state tax rebate in California in addition to a federal $3,750 tax credit. As a result, a base C-MAX Energi will start at $28,495 for credit-eligible buyers in California.

The C-MAX Energi is similar to the standard C-MAX hybrid except that the Energi's battery can store about 21 miles' worth of charge. Although it lacks the range of the Chevrolet Volt, the C-MAX Energi's EV-only range is about triple that of the Toyota Prius Plug-In.

Ford says that the order banks are open for the C-MAX Energi, which is set to arrive in California and a number of other markets by the end of this year before a national roll-out wraps up by "early 2013."