On a sunny Saturday in April, Wethersfield's Joe Booth rented a Nissan Leaf in Middlebury and steered it south to compete in the Westport Electric Car Club's inaugural rally.

Before he could complete the 34-mile course and return the car upstate, though, he had to recharge it at least five times.

Weeks later, recalling the effort at a club meeting, he earned a mix of sympathy and admiration.

"You should give this man a pin!" a member blurted.

"He got through!" club founder Leo Cirino said.

In fact, Booth is just the sort of man on the minds of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the governors of seven other states up and down the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. The eight state leaders signed an initiative in late October aimed at putting 3.3 million zero-emission electric and hydrogen-powered cars -- or at least 15 percent of all new vehicles purchased in those states -- on the roads by 2025.

Malloy called the effort consistent with the state's Comprehensive Energy Strategy, which is focused on "providing cheaper, cleaner and more reliable power for our residents and businesses," he said.

"As part of that strategy," he added, "we are working in the transportation sector to encourage the use of alternative fuels and alternative vehicles."

On Monday, Malloy announced the first follow-up step to achieve that larger plan: the awarding of $136,000 in grants to build out 56 publicly available electric vehicle charging stations in 42 locations across Connecticut. The plan is to alleviate "range anxiety," or the fear that your plug-in car will run out of power before you can find the next outlet. The Nissan Leaf, for example, has a range of 70 to 80 miles when fully charged, according to several studies. The funding for the state grants comes from the April 2012 settlement that allowed the merger of Northeast Utilities and NStar, a release said.

The grants range from $1,000 to $5,000, which only covers some of the costs for installing the new charging stations.

The state currently has 93 public charging stations, but there are serious gaps in the network, said Alex Kragie, deputy chief of staff at the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

The stations backed by the grant money will be installed mostly at restaurants, businesses, colleges, medical centers, municipal parking facilities and other convenient locations for the public, according to the release.

Southwest Connecticut has nine of the winning locations. They include the town of Bethel; Western Connecticut State University in Danbury; Karl Chevrolet in Greenwich; the town of Greenwich; Spinnaker Real Estate Partners in Norwalk; Norwalk Community College; Developer R.D. Scinto in Shelton; and Tri-Town Teachers Federal Credit Union in Westport as well as the town of Westport.

"I think it's really exciting,'' said Bethel First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker.

His town is receiving about $6,000 from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to build a charging station at the Metro-North rail station in the center of town.

Depending on the model of plug-in vehicle and the strength of the charger, the time it takes to get these vehicles back on the road can vary. For example, the Chevy Volt can be fully powered in 10 hours if you're using a 120-volt outlet, which is standard at homes. But it can be charged in about four hours if you're using a 240-volt outlet, according to a General Motors website.

Earlier this year, federal officials began touting the potential savings of regularly fueling up electric vehicles rather than gasoline-powered cars. In May, the U.S. Department of Energy unveiled its "eGallon" calculator, an online tool that attempts to compare the price of powering similar models.

As of Tuesday, the "eGallon" price in Connecticut is $1.71 to power an electric car to travel as far as $3.53 of gasoline will take a similar model of a more standard car.

By 2025, the average zero-emission driver will save nearly $6,000 in fueling costs over the life of a car, according to a release that accompanied the October agreement between Connecticut and seven other states -- California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont.

The efforts being considered by the governors of those states include harmonizing codes to quicken the growth of electric car charging stations; including zero-emission vehicles in public fleets; studying and potentially implementing financial and other incentives to promote the cars' adoption; considering establishing favorable electricity rates for home-charging systems; and developing common standards for roadway signs and charging networks, the release said.

Staff writer Bob Miller contributed to this report

tloh@scni.com; twitter.com/timloh