On May 20, 2015, U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), along with Lamar Alexander (R-TN), introduced the bipartisan Vehicle Innovation Act (VIA) to promote investments in research and development of clean vehicle technologies that will create more fuel efficient vehicles, reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign oil and support American auto manufacturers.
The Vehicle Innovation Act reauthorizes the Department of Energy’s Vehicle Technologies Program, which works with light duty automobile and medium and heavy duty commercial truck manufacturers and suppliers to conduct research and development to improve fuel efficiency in vehicles.
The bill directs the Department of Energy to partner with public and private sector entities to promote technology-neutral research and investment which will include a diverse array of technologies including hybrids, battery electric vehicles and natural gas-powered vehicles, that will reduce our dependence on imported oil, support domestic research and development and grow our advanced manufacturing industry in the United States.
The Vehicle Technologies Program has been operating without Congressional authorization for over seven years, and in that time, new technologies and new applications of existing technologies have been developed. The bill will encourage further research and development of technologies including mild hybrid, engine down speeding, power pack modeling and testing, advanced boosting systems, new vehicle sensing and communication, hydrogen and natural gas refueling and electric vehicle charging technology. The legislation will also give the Department of Energy critical resources to focus on near-term developments that could lead to significant fuel savings for the national fleet if widely used.
The legislation authorizes $313.6 million in funding for FY2016, and a four percent increase to each year after that through 2020, providing a consistent growth in funding to keep up with emerging technologies.
The Vehicle Innovation Act also includes provisions to specifically include vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications systems, collectively referred to as V2X. V2X technology has the potential to dramatically reduce traffic accidents and traffic congestion by allowing cars to communicate with one another and recognize dangers beyond what a vehicle’s radar, cameras or other sensors can detect.
The bill is supported by organizations including the Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA), the BlueGreen Alliance, the Auto Alliance and NTEA, the Association for the Work Truck Industry.