Representatives from all eight states were scheduled to gather in Sacramento at 8:30 a.m. to sign a memorandum of understanding that would increase infrastructure and make other changes to help increase market share for electric cars, hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids.
"This agreement 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," New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement.
The other states involved are Massachusetts, Maryland, Oregon, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Vermont. The eight states together represent about 23 percent of the U.S. auto market.
Each state has already adopted rules to require a percentage of new vehicles sold to be zero emission by 2025. California's mandate alone 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.
It's a steep curve. In California, plug-in-hybrids and electric vehicles currently make up less than 2 percent of the auto market.
Under terms of the memorandum, the states will first establish a taskforce to share ideas that will help expand the network of charging and fueling stations needed to make electric and hydrogen-fueled vehicles more attractive to consumers.
"The idea is to broaden the pool of people talking about this and working their way through the challenges that come up in setting up this kind of infrastructure, and growing this kind of a market," said Dave Clegern, a spokesman for California's Air Resources Board, which regulates auto emissions.
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 that every automaker will have a zero-emission model by 2015.
Car dealers, who 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.
"The cars are coming - they're here already - but if you don't have a place to charge them, there's not going to be the level of consumer acceptance."
Governors signing the memorandum all hailed the cooperative effort as a way to more quickly solve the inevitable problems that arise when making such far-reaching changes in people's everyday lives.
And some see future economic benefits from the switch to new vehicles.
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said more electric vehicles are key to his state's efforts grow the region's economy.
"Diversifying transportation fuels and providing drivers with options will help reduce vulnerability to price swings in imported oil that hurt consumers and our economy," Patrick said in a statement.
Jason Dearen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/JHDearen