Coalition of states seeks to spur use of electric cars

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WASHINGTON -- In an effort to spur lackluster sales of electric cars, California, New York and six other states said Thursday that they would work jointly to adopt a range of measures, from encouraging more charging stations to changing building codes, to make it easier to own an electric car.

The goal, they said, was to achieve sales of at least 3.3 million vehicles that do not have any emissions by 2025.

The states, which represent more than a quarter of the national car market, said they would seek to develop charging stations that all use the same form of payment, simplify their rules for installing chargers and set building codes and other regulations to require the stations at workplaces, multifamily residences and other places.

They said they would also promote hydrogen fueling stations, presuming that fuel-cell cars become more widely available. They said they would promote "time of use" electric rates that would allow charging at off-peak prices, and expand incentives such as high-occupancy lane access and reduced tolls and preferential parking. The states also said they would buy electric cars for their own fleets and, in some cases, encourage their municipalities to do the same.

"There's much that states can do, and perhaps even more that local governments can do," said Mary D. Nichols, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board and a longtime promoter of electric cars. In a phone interview, she said electric cars were "in the midst of a startup," and she predicted that they would "go viral."

The coalition of states -- California, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, Maryland and Oregon -- is roughly the same as the one that banded together in the early 1990s to embrace tighter emissions limits on gasoline-powered cars, which the federal government later embraced.

Part of their theory now is help remove one of the biggest obstacles to owning an electric car -- the underdeveloped network of charging stations. In the East, where drivers often commute across state lines, coordinated action by smaller states will also encourage sales, backers say.

Environmental officials from the states gathered in Sacramento, Calif., to announce the agreement.

The Northeast states have already been working together; one early result is a map of the more than a thousand charging stations between Maine and the District of Columbia.

The joint effort comes as sales of electric cars have lagged the Obama administration's ambitious goal of having 1 million sold by 2015.


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