Stabenow, Peters, Alexander Introduce Vehicle Innovation Act

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Gary Peters (D-MI), along with Lamar Alexander (R-TN), today 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.

"Our automakers are surging back with new innovations and new technologies, and we need to keep that momentum going," said Senator Stabenow. "The Vehicle Innovation Act will help our manufacturers and suppliers research and develop technologies to make more fuel-efficient vehicles, reducing costs at the pump and reducing our dependence on foreign oil. By strengthening public-private partnerships in Michigan and across the country, we can make sure our workers and businesses have the right technologies to drive our economy forward."

"The American auto industry has come roaring back, but we must ensure our auto manufacturers and suppliers continue to lead the way in developing the cutting-edge technologies that will help them compete globally," said Senator Peters. "Encouraging partnerships that focus on innovative research will help develop the next generation of fuel efficient automobiles here at home, reducing our depending on foreign oil and lowering fuels costs for businesses and consumers. I'm proud to work with Senators Alexander and Stabenow to introduce this important bipartisan legislation that makes smart investments in our advanced manufacturing industry, creates good-paying middle class jobs and ensures that the cars and trucks of the future are built in the United States and in Michigan."

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.

"The Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA) applauds Sens. Peters, Alexander and Stabenow for the introduction of the Vehicle Innovation Act. This legislation will allow motor vehicle suppliers to conduct the necessary research and development activities to assist vehicle manufacturers to meet future fuel efficiency and emissions requirements. The programs in this bill will support domestic research and manufacturing activities and lead to greater consumer choice of vehicle technologies," said Steve Handschuh, President and Chief Executive Officer of MEMA.

"Investing in advanced vehicle technology research, innovation, commercialization and manufacturing is critical to position America to lead in a clean, modern, global economy," said Kim Glas, Executive Director of the BlueGreen Alliance. "Enhancing research, development and commercialization of advanced car and truck technology as laid out in today's bill - together with separate measures to spur manufacturing will drive growth across the auto manufacturing supply chain, securing current jobs and growing new ones that will continue our manufacturing recovery nationwide. We thank Senators Peters, Alexander and Stabenow for introducing this bill and its contribution to advancing American competitiveness and growth."

"The Auto Alliance applauds Sens. Peters, Stabenow and Alexander for the introduction of the Vehicle Innovation Act of 2015," said Mitch Bainwol, Auto Alliance president and CEO. "Automakers are focused on the deployment of advanced technology and alternative fuel vehicles to help address our nation's energy security and environmental concerns. The next generation of fuel-efficient technologies requires significant investments in research, design, development, testing and certification as they are developed and refined for use on the various types of vehicles needed by American consumers. This legislation will help ensure that our industry partners throughout the vast automotive supply chain are supported in the research on and development of these advanced technologies."

"NTEA commends this long-term commitment to the motor vehicle industry. In order to meet the future needs of vocational truck users, the work truck industry likely will need to employ advanced technologies and deploy more alternatively fueled trucks," said Steve Carey, executive director with NTEA - The Association for the Work Truck Industry. "The government needs to be a partner in this goal for it to be accomplished in a timely and reasonable manner. The Vehicle Innovation Act would positively formalize partnerships with industry-led stakeholder organizations, nonprofit organizations, and trade associations with expertise in advanced automotive and commercial vehicle technologies."

The bill is also supported by the UAW, the League of Conservation Voters, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, the American Automotive Policy Council, the Electric Drive Transportation Association, Robert Bosch LLC, the LORD Corporation, Umicore and Bergstrom.