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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Automakers, utilities call for federal task force on electric vehicles

Automakers and the nation's utility companies urged the Obama administration to do more to boost the growth of electric vehicles.

In a letter today to President Barack Obama, the heads of trade associations representing automakers, utility companies and battery companies urged the administration to establish a task force to help smooth the road for thousands of electric vehicles that will hit the streets starting later this year.

"We believe that the critical, immediate next step for the Administration is to provide the necessary coordination of the growing federal, regional and private efforts," said the letter signed by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the trade group representing General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., Chrysler Group LLC, Toyota Motor Corp. and seven others.

Also backing the effort were the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, the Electric Drive Transportation Association and the Edison Electric Institute -- a group representing public electric companies.

"By taking these steps, the administration can ensure that federal agencies set long-term, consistent policies that encourage electric drive vehicle and infrastructure deployment," said alliance CEO Dave McCurdy.

The groups called for a "National Electric Fuel Task Force, to provide a necessary forum for public and private sector information exchange, and to collaboratively address challenges to large scale deployment of plug-in electric drive vehicles and the necessary infrastructure."

The groups called for the task force to be led by the Energy Department, and include federal and state regulators; utilities; environmental groups; vehicle, fueling and grid officials; and consumers groups.

The groups also called for an interagency working group to coordinate federal efforts. It would "provide greater coordination of federal expenditures related to electric drive technologies and of regulatory efforts across the federal government."

Obama has called for 1 million plug-in electric vehicles on the roads by 2015. Congress approved giving electric vehicle and battery efforts $2.4 billion in grants last year -- money that doesn't have to be paid back. Obama spoke at a ground-breaking event in Holland, Mich., last week for a battery plant.

"Aligning efforts between the public and private sector is the logical next step to bringing our nation closer to achieving widespread acceptance of electric drive technologies," said Mike Stanton, AIAM's CEO.

Congress is considering proposals to add another $6 billion or more to electric vehicle efforts.

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