The Energy Department announced $19.4 million on Wednesday for projects meant to speed the development of electric vehicles, even as President Trump has said he would eliminate regulations meant to incentivize the development of the zero-emission cars.
The funding will go to 22 new cost-shared projects through the Vehicle Technologies Office meant to accelerate research on advanced batteries to power electric vehicles, lightweight materials, engine technologies and more energy-efficient mobility systems.
The new funding "reasserts" the vehicle office's investment in advanced, energy-efficient transportation technologies and systems that "will improve our nation's energy security, help consumers and businesses save money on transportation energy costs, and strengthen U.S. economic competitiveness," the Energy Department said.
One of the projects will include $1 million in cost sharing from the Army through the Advanced Vehicle Power Technology Alliance to advance 15 projects aimed at advancing "smaller, safer, lighter weight, and less expensive battery packs that ultimately will make electric vehicles more affordable," the agency said.
The Trump budget request proposes to cut the Energy Department's funding for fiscal 2018 by nearly 6 percent. The cuts would be reached primarily by eliminating the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Program, which has a similar goal of advancing electric technologies.
The Vehicle Technologies Office is a part of the larger Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Office, which is also slated for cuts under Trump's budget proposal.
Although a House appropriations bill looks to restore some of the funding, energy-efficiency proponents argue that congressional funding is still too low and would hamper Energy Department efforts to advance the technologies in fiscal 2018. Wednesday's award comes from the fiscal 2017 funding pot.
Trump has rolled back an Obama administration Environmental Protection Agency decision to move ahead on the next round of vehicle fuel economy standards, requiring cars to achieve a corporate average mileage rating of more than 50 miles per gallon. The EPA regulations would achieve the mileage targets partly by incentivizing electric vehicle development.
Major automakers argue that the Obama administration approved the stricter regulations without considering the market conditions that they argue are not conducive to the fuel economy standards. Backed by statistics from the Energy Information Administration, the automakers argue that low gasoline prices are driving consumers to buy more SUVs and light trucks with lower fuel economy, as opposed to smaller, more fuel efficient cars, hybrid and electric vehicles.