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Google offers $10 million to ‘sustainable transportation’ firms

Google is earmarking more greenbacks to make cars greener. The nonprofit arm of the Web search giant,, on Wednesday issued a $10 million request for proposal from companies involved in commercial plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and other forms of sustainable transportation. The RFP process–to be done entirely online–is meant to accelerate development of cleaner forms of transportation at a large scale in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to Google intends to invest between $500,000 and $2 million in companies that are approved and will not take up position on those firms’ boards.

Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page plug their wheels into the grid.

It is looking for “for-profit companies whose innovative approach, team and technologies will enable widespread commercialization of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, electric vehicles and/or vehicle-to-grid solutions,” according to the RFP.

Submissions can be anything from battery technologies to services that encourage plug-in hybrids. The proposals will be reviewed by Google employees and experts in the field.

In June of this year, Google launched RechargeIT, a program to convert company cars to plug-in hybrids, which can be recharged and potentially feed power back into the electricity grid during times of high demand. The company has also installed a large 1.6-megawatt solar array and dedicated $1 million to nonprofit groups working to address global warming.

“While $10 million is a fraction of the total investment needed to transform our transportation sector, we hope this RFP will help catalyze a broader response. We need the automakers to bring these cars to market, but plug-in vehicles also need an entire ecosystem of companies (to) flourish,” Google said in a statement.

Despite Google’s enthusiasm for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, there still are very few commercial options for the average consumer. Typically, customers need to retrofit plug-in hybrids for several thousand dollars, though some automakers are now working on plug-in hybrids.

A recent study from the Electric Power Research Institute and the Natural Resources Defense Council concluded that vehicles that draw part of their power from the electricity grid pollute less than conventional cars.

Submissions are due by October 22, 2007.

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