WASHINGTON (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. and the European Union are close to setting joint standards for electric vehicles in a move that would foster development of the low-polluting cars, the EU's top trade official said.
"The EU and the U.S. are about to agree to an ambitious work plan aiming at aligning regulatory issues, standards and research" for those vehicles, EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said in a speech in Washington today.
With joint rules the world's two largest economies will "avoid moving into different directions and risk creating new market barriers," he said.
De Gucht, who is in Washington to meet with U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, other administration officials and business executives, didn't elaborate on what the standards would be.
They may be announced when he returns to Washington for a meeting with White House officials late this year.
General Motors spokesman Rob Peterson said standard regulations covering EVs and plug-in hybrids between the two markets would benefit the automaker.
"Anytime you can get things that are common, it helps with the designing, engineering and manufacturing,” Peterson said.
GM plans to release the Chevrolet Volt, also sold and branded as the Opel and Vauxhall Ampera, for sale in Europe later this year.
Peterson said the “number one” concern is standardized charging mechanisms. All electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles use the industry standard SAE J1772 charger.
GM also supports standard regulations for vehicle warning sounds that EVs would be required to emit to alert pedestrians, Peterson said.
In January, President Barack Obama signed a bill into law that directed the Department of Transportation to study standard alert noises that would make blind pedestrians aware of passing electric vehicles.
Joseph Lichterman contributed to this report