Senate Panel Backs EV Bill; Global EV Initiative Launched

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Electric vehicle manufacturers will be energized this week by the news that a bipartisan Senate panel has just given their approval to a proposed plug-in vehicles bill.

Although not final, as the bill needs approval first by the full Senate and then the House and Senate, the measures introduced in the bill would be very important to encouraging development of electric vehicle drivetrains and infrastructures.

The bill is intended to maintain subsidies for EVs and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and boost funding for electric vehicle research. Part of the funding will also go towards a $10 million prize for the development of an EV battery with 500 miles of range.

In addition, the panel also backed a measure by Michigan Democrat Debbie Stabenow to lift the $25 billion cap on the Energy Department's alternative fuels loan program. The measure would also be beneficial to commercial truck manufacturers, who would now become eligible for alternative fuel development loans. The increase in funding would be drawn from future budgets.

The plug-in development bill has been amended recently to quell initial concerns that much of the funding was originally due to go to a small group of "early adopter" communities. This may have resulted in the rest of the country being denied the investment needed to develop an electric charging infrastructure, but the amendments will now allow additional cities to qualify for funding after three years.

Also encouraging is the news that a new Electric Vehicle Initiative (EVI) has been launched at the Clean Energy Ministerial in Washington DC.

The EVI supports targets to ensure as many as 20 million electric vehicles are on the road worldwide by 2020. Participants in the initiative include China, France, Germany, Japan, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The countries involved have agreed to meet certain conditions to boost the development and sales of electric vehicles, including:

  1. Launching programs to promote EV demonstrations in a series of pilot cities
  2. Sharing information on funding and research and development to ensure all countries are addressing the most relevant areas of EV technology; and,
  3. Sharing information on EV development targets, best practices and policies to benefit progress

Pilot cities will run demonstrations of alternative fuel vehicles, including EVs and PHEVs as well as hybrid electric vehicles and fuel-cell vehicles like Honda's 2010 FCX Clarity, and cities will also be encouraged to share information with participating governments, automobile manufacturers and other relevant businesses to aid research and analysis.

The events should also increase public awareness of electric vehicles. Several other initiatives have been launched alongside the EVI to further increase the development and usage of clean energy technologies and sustainable power.

[Edmunds and Green Car Congress via CalCars]

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