U.S. Senator Susan Collins today announced that she has introduced bipartisan legislation designed to increase research into hybrid vehicle technology, especially technology related to heavy trucks. The Heavy Duty Hybrid Vehicle Research, Development, and Demonstration Act was introduced along with the leadership of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

The bill would direct the Department of Energy to expand its research in advanced energy storage technologies to include heavy hybrid trucks as well as passenger vehicles. DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that hybrid trucks could reduce fuel use by as much as 60 percent. Additional research is needed to make hybrid trucks a reality due the engineering differences between smaller, lightweight passenger vehicles and much larger commercial trucks.

“America’s commercial truckers are paying record prices for fuel, cutting into profits,” said Senator Collins. “In 1999, a Maine truck driver could purchase $500 of diesel fuel and drive from Augusta, Maine all the way to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Today, a driver who purchases $500 of diesel and leaves Augusta would not even make it to Altoona, Pennsylvania, and because diesel prices may well continue to increase, the problem is only getting worse. Plug-in hybrid trucks would make them less susceptible to dramatic swings in oil prices. Also, reducing oil consumption by heavy duty trucks could go a long way toward reducing our nation’s oil consumption. ”

A similar, bipartisan measure was passed by the House of Representatives earlier this week.