• Vt. part of push for more zero-emission vehicles
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     | October 25,2013
     
    AP Photo

    Deb Markowitz, right, secretary of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, and Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board, view an electric car in Sacramento, Calif., after a news conference Thursday to announce the signing of an agreement promoting zero-emission cars.

    SAN FRANCISCO — Vermont and seven other states, including California and New York, pledged Thursday to work together to dramatically multiply the number of zero-emission cars on their roads by speeding the construction of charging stations and other infrastructure.

    Vermont Natural Resources Secretary Deb Markowitz was in Sacramento to sign a memorandum of understanding creating a task force to help bolster charging infrastructure, roadway signs and other changes in an effort to buoy the market for electric cars, hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids.

    The agreement signed Thursday requires no specific financial commitment from each state. Markowitz said Vermont has not put a cost on achieving the goals but believes in the end the state will partner with private companies to help them build charging stations and other infrastructure.

    By 2015, there are expected to be more than 200,000 zero-emission vehicles on roads across the U.S. The eight states in the coalition want to increase that to 3.3 million such vehicles on their roadways by 2025.

    The other states involved are Massachusetts, Maryland, Oregon, Connecticut and Rhode Island. The eight together represent about 23 percent of the U.S. auto market.

    Automakers applauded the agreement as an important step toward getting consumers interested in these technologies, which until now have been slow to catch on because of worries over electric car range.

    The 3.3 million goal “is not an achievable goal given what we’re doing today from an infrastructure investment standpoint. It’s just not,” said Dan Gage, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers in Washington, D.C., which represents Toyota Motor Corp., General Motors Co. and 10 others.

    “Up to this point there’s been a lack of consumer interest, and a lot of that has to do with investment in infrastructure,” he said.

    Each state has already, separately adopted rules to require a percentage of new vehicles sold to be zero emission by 2025. California’s mandate of 15.4 percent calls for a total of 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles to be on the state’s roads by that time.

    The eight states have vowed to work together to smooth building codes and other regulations in a way that will allow quick rollout of new charging stations.

    “The idea is to make it easier for customers to operate and use zero-emission vehicles. This in turn will help pave the way for success of the auto industry,” said Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board.

    Getting 3.3 million of these vehicles will be a steep curve. In California, plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles currently make up less than 2 percent of the auto market.

    There are now 16 zero-emission vehicles from eight manufacturers on the market: nine that run on batteries alone, two hydrogen fuel cell cars and five plug-in hybrid models, which can run on battery alone or gasoline.

    Officials say every automaker will have a zero-emission model by 2015.

    Car dealers, which are under pressure to help meet these 2025 goals, say getting fueling infrastructure like charging stations in place quickly is the only way to get average consumers used to a new product that requires new driving habits.

    “We think that is going to be necessary for some of the range anxiety and other acceptance barriers that need to be broken down,” said Brian Maas, president of the California New Car Dealers Association.

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