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An electric vehicle research bill may not move forward after committee hearing

Carlos Braceras, Dr. Regan Zane, and Senator Chris Wilson sit side-by-side in suits presenting their bill. Zane speaks with gestures while the other two watch him attentively. Several people sit in the audience behind them.
Utah State Legislature

Amid rising interest and demand for electric cars, trains and even planes, SB 125 was brought to the Senate to coordinate Utah’s transition into these new industries. The bill, sponsored by Chris Wilson (R-Cache, Rich), creates a steering agency to oversee and plan the transition across state agencies.

It also makes an advisory board of industries and workforce partners to work with the steering agency. Together, they hope to evaluate year-by-year where investments are needed and how to get more federal funding to accomplish their goals.

This endeavor would be centered at the ASPIRE Engineering Research Center at Utah State University, which is focused specifically on the electrification of transportation industries. Carlos Braceras, executive director of the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT), said they felt ASPIRE was the most effective choice for this project.

“The state is already invested in helping develop the expertise at the ASPIRE center, that we wanted to leverage that investment that has already made,” Braceras said.

There was extensive discussion of the bill in committee last Wednesday. Some concerns included whether ASPIRE was the best choice to lead this initiative, and the fact that the $2.1 million of funding would come out of the income tax fund rather than transportation.

Senator Kathleen Riebe (D-Salt Lake City), also had concerns about getting the right people involved.

“It comes down to really specific details for very specific technology and craftsmen,” Riebe said, “and so if they’re not at the table, then how do we know we’re gonna meet those needs properly?”

With many of the questions and concerns left unsolved, the committee decided to hold the bill, which means it was not moved forward but also not voted out of committee and can be brought back into discussion at a later date.

Duck is a general reporter and weekend announcer at UPR, and is studying broadcast journalism and disability studies at USU. They grew up in northern Colorado before moving to Logan in 2018, so the Rocky Mountain life is all they know. Free time is generally spent with their dog, Monty, listening to podcasts, reading or wishing they could be outside more.