WASHINGTON - The House on passed a bill Sept. 9 to encourage research and production of hybrid-powered commercial vehicles. The bill, passed by voice vote, would create a grant program for research and development of hybrid heavy-duty trucks, according to CQ Politics.

A similar bill passed the House in the last Congress but was never taken up by the Senate.

"Hopefully we can get some movement on this measure this time around," said Paul Tonko , D-N.Y. "By enhancing the Department of Energy's research program in heavy duty hybrid trucks, this bill draws much-needed focus to a very critical component of the transportation sector - that being commercial trucks."

Heavy-duty trucks typically rely on diesel or gasoline engines for power, and have lower fuel economy and higher emissions than cars or SUVs because of their size and weight.

Currently, the Energy Department does not offer any competitive grants for the development of technologies applicable for use in hybrid trucks.

The bill would create two phases of the research program for grant recipients, who would be eligible to receive $3 million annually for three years to complete both phases.

In the first phase, recipients would have one year to build or retrofit one or more advanced heavy-duty hybrid vehicles. In phase two, recipients would be required to demonstrate the advanced manufacturing processes of heavy duty plug-in vehicles by producing or retrofitting 50 advanced heavy-duty hybrid vehicles within two years.

To be eligible, recipients would have to produce trucks with a gross weight between 14,000 and 33,000 pounds.

"While most of the attention on hybrid vehicles has been focused on passenger cars, large, heavy duty hybrid trucks have received limited funds for federal research and development programs. However because trucks generally use much more fuel per year than passenger vehicles, the overall potential on savings is very significant," said Rep. Ralph M. Hall of Texas, the Science committee's ranking Republican.

Republican Susan Collins of Maine has introduced a companion measure in the Senate.