8 Governors Join to Promote Zero-Emission Vehicles

October 24, 2013 AT 2:15 PM

By Mark Glover

California Gov. Jerry Brown and governors of seven other states today will announce an initiative that aims to put 3.3 million zero-emission vehicles on the roadways within a dozen years.

The multi-state effort dovetails with California's previously stated goal of putting 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2025.

The initiative takes the form of a memorandum of understanding signed by the governors of California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont. Officials said those states comprise nearly 25 percent of the U.S. vehicle market.

The agreement spells out cooperative measures promoting zero-emission vehicles -- or ZEVs -- with goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving air quality and public health, fostering energy diversity, creating consumer savings and promoting economic growth.

ZEVs include battery-electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles. Increasing the number of EV charging stations is a major component of the agreement.

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Brown called the initiative "not just an agreement, but a serious and profoundly important commitment. From coast to coast, we're charging ahead to get millions of the world's cleanest vehicles on our roads."

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he believes the effort is "a major step forward to reducing the emissions that are causing our climate to change and unleashing the extreme weather that we are experiencing with increased frequency."

In Sacramento, a formal announcement of the program will be made at 8:30 a.m. today at the California Environmental Protection Agency building at 1001 I St. Various officials of the states are scheduled to be on hand, along with representatives of the American Lung Association and Consumer Federation of America. The Sacramento announcement is being coordinated by the California Air Resources Board.

Some of the cooperative measures agreed to by the governors include: harmonizing building codes to make it easier to construct new electric vehicle charging stations, including ZEVs in public vehicle fleets, establishing financial and other incentives to promote ZEVs, and developing common standards for roadway signs and charging networks. The governors also said they would consider establishing favorable electricity rates for home-charging systems. Officials said California and the other seven states will develop an action plan over the next six months.

Among all states, California has been the leader in sales of gas-electric hybrids, electric vehicles and ZEVs. In recent years, automakers have increased output of electric vehicles that, by technical definition, have no harmful emissions. Recent, technology-laden model introductions also include the all-electric Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Volt, a passenger car that can run solely via a battery charged in a common home electrical outlet, then continue via a charging process handled by an on-board, standard-fuel engine.

Officials said there are currently 16 zero-emission vehicle models available from eight automotive manufacturers. Hydrogen fuel cell vehicle development is still in the early stages, but Toyota will unveil its upcoming concept next month at the Tokyo Motor Show. Toyota aims to sell the hydrogen fuel cell cars in the United States, Europe and Japan by 2015. Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles from Hyundai, Honda and Mercedes-Benz are also in the pipeline.

The biggest obstacle to the proliferation of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles has been a lack of hydrogen fueling stations, but California could eventually lead that effort with Brown's recent signing of Assembly Bill 8. It extends, until Jan. 1, 2024, existing fees on motor vehicles, boat registrations and new tires. The fees fund programs to accelerate the turnover of older vehicles and development of advanced, environmentally friendly technologies.

Officials at the West Sacramento-based California Fuel Cell Partnership said the measure provides funding for at least 100 hydrogen stations with a commitment of up to $20 million a year from the California Energy Commission's Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program. Last year, the partnership released "A California Road Map" recommending 68 stations in strategic locations to launch the commercial market and at least 100 stations to sustain it.

(c)2013 The Sacramento Bee