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Senate panel approves plug-in hybrids, expanded loan program for fuel-efficient vehicles

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A Senate committee approved two proposals today to boost plug-in hybrid vehicles and expand a $25-billion loan program for fuel-efficient vehicles to include commercial trucks and possibly more money.

The Dorgan bill would require the U.S. Department of Energy to come up with strategies for spreading plug-in hybrids – from training mechanics to changing local zoning codes to accept charging stations. It would spend $1.5 billion on plug-in research, and create a $10-million “Advanced Batteries for Tomorrow Prize” for anyone who develops a vehicle battery that can provide 500 miles of range.

In response to complaints from automakers and some electric vehicle advocates, Dorgan modified the bill to change a pilot program that would let cities apply for up to $250 million in grants to help roll out 400,000 plug-in vehicles. After three years, the program could include a broader set of cities.


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