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8 states release plan to build infrastructure for clean-burning cars

SAN FRANCISCO - Eight states on the East and West coasts released a plan Thursday for working together to put 3.3 million zero-emission vehicles on the nation's roads by 2025.

The so-called "action plan" follows last year's memorandum of understanding announced by the governors of the states, including California and New York.

The other states in the pact are Massachusetts, Maryland, Oregon, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Vermont. The states represent about 23 per cent of the U.S. auto market.

Car manufacturers applauded the action plan but said a lot of work needs to be done to meet the 3.3 million goal with zero-emission vehicles making up less than a per cent of nationwide new car sales.

"Automakers have invested billions of dollars in these technologies, so we have a huge stake in selling as many as possible" said Gloria Bergquist, vice-president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers in Washington, which represents General Motors and 11 other carmakers.

"We still have a steep climb. But we're increasingly headed in the right direction."

The states vow to cut red tape to allow for quick construction of charging stations and other infrastructure needed to grow the market for plug-in hybrids, battery powered cars and other clean-burning vehicles.

The plan includes other measures to make the cars more attractive to consumers — like creating incentives for workplace charging stations.

"Today, we're putting a foot on the pedal to get more clean cars on the road," California Gov. Jerry Brown, said in a news release. "This is real action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

The agreement requires no specific financial commitment from each state. But each has ambitious clean car goals, so the idea is to share information and collaborate to smooth the path forward.

For example, the states are working as a group to improve signage for electric vehicle charging station's on federal highways.

"One thing you find when you drive an EV as I do is that there are a lot of different signs telling people where there's charging stations," said Mary Nichols, chairwoman of California's Air Resources Board. "(Better signage) will help smooth the way for drivers who buy these great vehicles."

Automakers and dealers have said consumers are not fully embracing electric vehicles due to a lack of charging stations and the cost of cleaner-burning vehicles that is often higher than traditional models.

In 2013, zero-emission vehicles made up less than 1 per cent of total U.S. auto sales, just more than 96,000 of the 15.5 million vehicles sold, the automakers' group reported.

The multistate effort could help improve those numbers by quickly increasing the amount of hydrogen fueling and charging stations in states with a lot of cars.

"Putting 3.3 million ZEVs on the roads of Oregon and our partner states in the next 11 years requires both collaboration and action," Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, said in the release. "This action plan gives Oregon and other partner states specific next steps to not only build on and expand current efforts, but to see them through."

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