The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill that would promote research and development for more fuel efficient light, medium and heavy-duty vehicles.

H.R. 3246, the Advanced Vehicle Technology Act, passed Sept. 16 by a vote of 312-144.

The bill creates an advanced vehicle technology research and development program at the Department of Energy. DOE will join in public-private partnerships with academia and industry to carry out research and development for light, medium and heavy duty vehicles to develop and produce advanced motor vehicles.

The research, development and deployment programs conducted under this bill will improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions, support domestic research and manufacturing, and lead to greater consumer choice of vehicle technologies and fuels.

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.). "Other nations are investing heavily in these technologies and we cannot afford to be left behind," he said.

The bill authorizes $2.9 billion over five years, including $550 million in the budget year starting Oct. 1. That's more than $200 million above the current yearly vehicle research budget.

However, the measure still has to be passed by the Senate, and Congress must act separately to allocate the funds.