Internet search giant Google - operating via its philanthropic arm, Google.org - is offering $10m of incentives to manufacturers that produce environmentally friendly 'plug-in' cars.
Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (plug-in hybrids or PHEVs) have a battery that's charged via a standard 120 volt outlet. Unlike hybrids such as the Toyota Prius, the plug-in does not use its engine to charge the battery, which allows for zero-emission short distance trips.
There are no PHEV automobiles commercially available, but Chevrolet has a concept car and Toyota says it is interested in spearheading the PHEV revolution.
But what Google.org wants is input from the private sector, entrepreneurs and for-profit companies willing to grab a piece of the $10m as an incentive to get something into production to promote social and environmental change. Google.org calls its mission 'focused investing' and has made it part of its RechargeIT initiative, which began in June.
"We need catalytic investments to support technologies, products and services that are critical to accelerating plug-in vehicle commercialisation," Google wrote on its web site.
The company says the integration of hybrid cars with the electric power grid could reduce petrol consumption by 85 billion gallons per year. It adds that the figure is equal to a 27 percent reduction in total US greenhouse gases, 52 percent displacement potential of US oil imports, and $270bn avoided in gasoline expenses.
The company offers examples of companies that might want to apply for a cut of the $10m including early stage technology ventures coming emerging from a university or lab looking to develop and commercialise a product such as a new type of battery. Another possibility is a company active in the automotive or power space that could modify an existing product that addresses a key need in one of the vehicle classifications.
Google.org is asking for proposals of no more than five pages that include biographies of key personnel, product development plans, and funding needs among other details.
Judging criteria will include potential for mass commercialisation, quality of planning, potential reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and other impacts on sustainability.
Proposals are due on October 22 and can be submitted online.
"We realise that this type of open call for proposals is not the usual model for investment, but we wanted to use a process that was open to new ideas and new entrants," Goggle.org said in an email to media outlets.