Additional funding was approved by the United States House of Representatives to further automakers’ race to the latest and greatest electric vehicle technologies. The race to develop greener, eco-friendly automotive technologies is becoming an all out sprint, as automakers stretch themselves to become competitive in the hybrid and all-electric markets.
The bill that authorizes additional funding was sponsored by state representative Gary Peters (D-MI), who included provisions for heavy machinery and commercial vehicles in the legislations. The U.S. House approval of his bill, proponents say, will help America compete with Japan, who leads the industry in advanced battery production and hybrid vehicle sales.
The Peters bill amounts to a $200 million dollar increase in the Energy Department’s spending on the development and research required for all “advanced technology” vehicles and parts. This would place the government funded research in this arena at about $550 million per year if Congress decides to fund the bill.
Although many Republicans in the House had doubts about the program’s cost, the bill passed on a 312-114 vote, making it the latest in a long list of efforts by the U.S. government to bail out the ailing auto industry.
Billions were allotted for automaker bailouts during the Bush administration, and the Obama administration has continued with additional bailout money for GM and Chrysler during their bankruptcy and reorganization. Last year $25 billion was allotted for assembly plant upgrades needed to support the production of more fuel efficient vehicles; this year, a $3 billion government clunker rebate program boosted auto sales to healthier levels.
Peters spoke recently about his bill; “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. 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.”
Proponents of the bill see the new fuel economy standards and accompanying technology as a way to breathe new life into states like Michigan, where the economy has been devastated by the global economic downturn.
The money, if funded, will be spread over five years and will go toward expedited, advanced research performed by companies and universities for the production of batteries for eco-friendly vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell technology and electric grid infrastructure. The research would also include the area of commercial vehicles in the medium and heavy weight categories.
The bill will also require the U.S. government to partner with a wide array of companies, non-government organizations and universities and organizations and companies that have not yet had the opportunity to work on government sponsored research.