The proposal adds to a sudden wave of Washington interest in fuel cells. President Bush set it off with his Jan. 28 State of the Union address and his Feb. 3 budget presentation for fiscal 2004. He promised $1.7 billion over five years for research on fuel cell vehicles and hydrogen fuel.
But Cox and Wyden say they don't think the United States should wait until 2015 to 2020, as the Bush administration envisions, to take widespread advantage of fuel cells, which don't need petroleum as a source of energy and can be made to be pollution free.
Under their legislation, the buyer of a fuel cell-powered vehicle before 2010 would get 25 percent of the purchase price back as a tax credit.
The maximum credit would be $50,000. Smaller credits would be available in subsequent years.
The likely fate of the proposal is unclear.
The Clinton administration first proposed tax credits for gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles and other advanced technology vehicles in 1998. The industry got firmly behind the idea a couple of years later, and the Bush administration's budget calls for credits of as much as $4,000 for hybrids and $8,000 for fuel cell vehicles.
The hybrids already on the road - the Toyota Prius and Honda Civic Hybrid and Insight - qualify for a clean fuels tax deduction, which can trim as much as $2,000 off the taxable income of a vehicle purchaser.