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Obama calls for big boost in electric vehicle research funding

Washington — President Barack Obama proposed a big boost in vehicle research funding in his 2014 budget proposal that he delivered to Congress on Wednesday. He also called for more money for high-speed rail, cellulosic ethanol and boosting manufacturing.

Obama wants to hike the Energy Department’s vehicle research budget by 75 percent to $575 million and create a $2 billion trust fund to fund more research into getting the country off foreign oil over the next 10 years.

“We’ll continue our march towards energy independence,” Obama said in unveiling his budget.

A key part of the budget is a broad proposal to help jumpstart lagging electric vehicle sales.

The White House “EV Everywhere initiative” “is a targeted effort to make electric-powered vehicles as affordable and convenient as gasoline-powered vehicles for the average American family within a decade,” the budget said.

Obama is again calling to hike the tax credit for electric vehicles to $10,000. He allow the dealer to claim the credit as long as it was disclosed to the consumer, as a way of allowing owners to get the credit as a point-of-sale rebate rather than when they filed a tax return the following year.

He has called for expanding the credit from solely electric vehicles and plug-in electric hybrid vehicles

As a candidate, Obama called in 2008 for 1 million plug-in electric vehicles on the roads by 2015.

But in recent years, Obama has stopped talking about his goal as sales have lagged far behind estimates. Analysts think it is almost impossible, in part because only about 50,000 plug-in vehicles have been sold in the United States since 2011, and all major automakers have scaled back forecasts of EV production.

Obama has shifted his efforts on electric vehicles and now embraces subsidies for a broader range of advanced vehicles.

He also wants to expand a tax credit for fuel cell medium and heavy duty trucks of up to $40,000 to include other alternative-fuel technologies.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the trade group representing Detroit’s Big Three automakers, Toyota Motor Corp., Volkswagen AG and others, praised the vehicle push.

“While we are still digging into the president’s budget, we surely will welcome hearing more details about both of the initiatives to expand R&D for motor vehicles,” said spokeswoman Gloria Bergquist said “Automakers are already investing billions of dollars in new energy-efficient technologies, and the results are on sale now…. Incentives are proposed to spur the sale of alternative-powered autos. We generally support incentives that can help move our models from dealer lots to people’s drive ways, but we defer to policymakers in setting the precise dollar amount needed to increase sales.”

Obama’s budget includes accelerated research and development on emerging battery technologies and manufacturing processes to enable production of lower-cost electric vehicles with an improved vehicle range and an increased fast-charging capability.

It also would fund another proposal that’s been approved by Congress — to support a small number of advanced vehicle deployment communities, which will be selected through a competition, and would combine government resources to test different real-world approaches to accelerating deployment of advanced vehicles at scale in specific communities.

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