WASHINGTON - The U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last week approved a $3.6 billion bill aimed at promoting the use of electric vehicles. 

The Promoting Electric Vehicle Act of 2010 was approved on a 19-4 vote on July 21. The bill, authored by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND), would expand and extend incentives to accelerate the introduction of electric vehicles. 

The bill calls for the creation of "deployment communities" nationwide, where incentive programs for EVs and EV charging infrastructure would hasten market penetration and the establishment of industry best practices. 

The goal is to put the nation on a path to electrify half its cars and trucks by 2030, Dorgan said. 

In a separate action, the committee also approved a bill that would extend the $25 billion retooling loan program for advanced technology vehicles. The Advanced Vehicle Technology Act, introduced by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), would provide U.S. automakers and suppliers funding to develop the next generation of advanced vehicles. 

Last year, Congressman Gary Peters (D-MI) wrote and introduced the Advanced Vehicle Technology Act in the U.S. House of Representatives, where it passed 312-114 last September. 

This legislation would expand the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loan Program, commonly known as section 136, allowing suppliers and more manufacturers to be eligible for funding. The program is aimed at helping companies retool existing plants to manufacture advanced technology vehicles. Under this program, Ford Motor Co. received $5 billion in loans to retool the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne to produce the Ford Focus. 

"We need to build the new vehicles of the future here in America in order to create clean-energy jobs in Michigan and across the country," said Stabenow. "The Advanced Vehicle Technology Act will provide crucial dollars to help our manufacturers and suppliers develop and deploy technologies to make more fuel-efficient vehicles, reducing our dependence on foreign oil and foreign technologies." 

The Advanced Vehicle Technology Act would provide funding to the U.S. Department of Energy for advanced vehicle research and development. The funding would be available through competitive grant awards for manufacturers and suppliers that develop technologies to improve the energy efficiency of vehicles. 

These efforts include hybrid and electrical systems, advanced batteries and energy storage devices, hydrogen and natural gas systems, refueling and recharging infrastructure, and other advanced vehicle technologies. The bill would also expand the development of more fuel-efficient medium and heavy duty commercial trucks.