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Bills to spark electric cars would limit fund recipients

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Bills to spark electric cars would limit fund recipients

White House wants to focus resources; senator, others object

David Shepardson / The Detroit News

Washington -- The Obama administration backs legislation calling for billions of dollars in investment to boost the number of electric vehicles on the road in as many as 15 communities.

But some say limiting the number of communities may instead slow the proliferation of electric cars on U.S. highways.

"Starting with a smaller number (of communities) would allow us to focus resources and build a team of experts that can support a more widespread rollout," Energy Department Assistant Secretary David Sandalow told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday. "We need to invest in 21st-century technologies."

In an interview, Sandalow said the administration would work with the committee on the precise amount of funding; the target amount is $10 billion.

"The direction of the bill is a good one," he said. "We think this moves in a very positive direction."

President Barack Obama has called for 1 million plug-in vehicles on the roads by 2015 and made advanced batteries and electric vehicles a priority.

The committee chairman, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., and automakers questioned the 15-community limit.

Targeting a handful while "everyone else would watch ... we may be too far down the road" to do that," Bingaman said. "We should be going nationwide with deployment."

A House version of the proposal would spend $6.6 billion and dedicate $800 million to five "deployment communities" to get 700,000 plug-in vehicles in use; a Senate version written by Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., and two others would grant $250 million each to up to 15 communities.

Another Senate bill would give rebates to the buyers of electric or other fuel-efficient vehicles and slap fees on less efficient ones.

"We want to set aspirations," Dorgan said. "This moves us in the right direction."

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group representing Detroit's Big Three carmakers, Toyota Motor Corp. and seven other automakers, opposes the bill.

"We believe the legislation should allow manufacturers, fuel providers and communities the flexibility to invest in multiple electric drive pathways, including fuel cell electric vehicle and related hydrogen infrastructure," said Kathryn Clay, the group's research director.

"We have significant concerns about an approach that would limit investments to a handful of communities, particularly at such an early stage of electric vehicle deployment. This creates a small number of communities that would 'win' and receive significant federal dollars while the rest of country loses out."

From The Detroit News: http://www.detnews.com/article/20100623/AUTO01/6230343/1148/auto01/Bills-to-spark-electric-cars-would-limit-fund-recipients#ixzz0rgCnOHqn

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