The U.S. House voted Sept. 16 to extend another financial hand to the auto industry, approving $2.9 billion for green transportation research at the Department of Energy. The legislation (H.R. 3246) provides for long-term funding of public-private vehicle research, development, demonstration and commercial application activities in Energy's Vehicle Technologies Program.
The bill was approved on a 312-114 vote and now moves to the Senate. If the Senate approves the legislation -- the Advanced Vehicle Technology Act of 2009 -- the bill will still face a vote to actually appropriate the authorized funds.
The bill authorizes $550 million for FY10 and increases DOE green vehicle research funding by $10 million every year through FY2014. Of that total, $200 million will be for medium and heavy duty commercial vehicles, $30 million will be for user facilities and $20 million for a non-road pilot program (construction and agricultural vehicles). The remaining $300 million will go toward passenger and commercial vehicle technologies, such as the hybridization or full electrification of vehicle systems to reduce gasoline use.
"There is a global competition right now to determine which countries will produce the cars and trucks of the future. There is no doubt that in the years ahead more Americans will be driving hybrids, plug-in hybrids, battery electric vehicles, and cars and trucks powered by hydrogen fuel cells," bill sponsor Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI) said in a statement. "The only question is whether these new technologies will be researched, developed and manufactured here in the United States creating American jobs or whether this technology will be built overseas."
According to the House Science and Technology Committee, the existing Vehicle Technologies program at DOE has tended to shift its focus between individual technologies, creating a winner-take-all-approach, to vehicle research where one technology receives the large bulk of federal funding, only to have funding reduced before the program can reasonably be expected to develop commercially viable technologies.
H.R. 3246 aims to give long-term sustained funding on a comprehensive research and development program focusing on a broad range of areas to ensure that the U.S. can develop the new cutting-edge, commercially viable vehicle technologies of the future.
"From passenger cars to heavy duty long-haul trucks, we are all aware of the economic, environmental, and strategic importance of diversifying our nation's vehicle sector through innovation in cleaner and more efficient technologies," Science and Technology Committee Bart Gordan (D-TN) said. "However, the current economic situation has made it all the more difficult for companies to invest in the research and technology development to get us there. This bill provides a critical foundation of support to ensure U.S. leadership in developing and producing the next generation of advanced vehicle technologies."