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States form coalition to support electric cars

If you're from either coast, your commute may get a little bit cleaner. Eight states on the east and west coasts have formed a coalition to implement measures that will make a switch to electric cars quite a bit easier.

By / October 25, 2013

A Nissan Leaf tops off it's battery in Central Point, Ore., at one of the charging stations along Interstate 5. The Leaf is one of several electric cars that qualify for a sizable federal tax credit.

Jeff Bernard/AP/File

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The age of the electric car may be upon us, at least in New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, California, Oregon, Maryland, and Vermont.

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On Oct. 24, the eight states announced they will work together to implement a series of measures to encourage the purchase and ease of owning electric vehicles with the goal of having 3.3 million emission-free vehicles on the road by 2025.

The coalition of states, similar to the group of states that worked in the early 1990s to limit emissions on gasoline-fueled cars, hopes that by addressing key factors that have prevented the electric car from going mainstream, they can spur more widespread demand. Measures on the table include developing charging stations with streamlined payments, simplifying rules for installing chargers (in public places and homes), and setting building codes that would require the installation of charging stations. The states are also hoping to include traffic incentives for electric car drivers, such as permission to drive in high occupancy lanes, reduced tolls, and preferential parking.  Some states are also considering leading by example, by buying electric cars for their public service fleets.

Car companies will likely pay attention to these measures, as the eight states make up about a quarter of the automobile market. Currently eight auto-manufacturers offer 16 zero-emission vehicle options.

But developing more electric cars could prove to be an uphill battle. Complaints against the cars include disappointment at the short battery life and high price.  The Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt have begun to address these concerns, both dropping their prices over the summer. Tesla Motors, Elon Musk’s electric car venture, has experimented with 90-second battery swaps to quickly recharge cars on the go. 

Global Automakers, a group that represents 13 major auto companies told CNN, this is a needed step and auto manufacturers are also doing their part.

"Getting the marketplace ready to support [zero-emission vehicles] is a shared responsibility and automakers are already making huge investments in developing the technologies," the group says.

Electric car sales are still low in the United States, but growing. In 2011, only 17,000 electric cars were sold, compared to 52,000 in 2012. States did not say the amount that would be spent on these measures, but even low cost changes, like allowing electric vehicles into car pool lanes could boost numbers.

"This is not just an agreement, but a serious and profoundly important commitment," says California Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. in a statement. "From coast to coast, we're charging ahead to get millions of the world's cleanest vehicles on our roads."

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