Google wants into the car business

Google.org putting up US$10 million to entice entrepreneurs, companies to work on sustainable transportation

The company that redefined Internet search is putting up US$10 million via its philanthropic arm, Google.org, to entice someone with the next great idea to ignite mass commercialization of plug-in cars.

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (plug-in hybrid or PHEV) is a vehicle whose battery is 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 US$10 million as an incentive to get something into production to promote social and environmental change. Google.org calls its mission focused investing and it is part of its RechargeIT initiative that began in June.

Google.org has put out RFPs around ways to advance sustainable transportation solutions.

"We need catalytic investments to support technologies, products and services that are critical to accelerating plug-in vehicle commercialization," the company wrote on its Web site.

The company says the integration of hybrid cars with the electric power grid could reduce gasoline consumption by 85 billion gallons per year. It adds that the figure is equal to a 27 percent reduction in total U.S. greenhouse gases, 52 percent displacement potential of U.S. oil imports, and US$270 billion avoided in gasoline expenses

The RFP covers ideas around PHEVs, electric vehicles and vehicle-to-grid solutions.

The company offers examples of companies that might want to apply for a cut of the US$10 million including early stage technology ventures coming emerging from a university or lab looking to develop and commercialize 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 commercialization, quality of planning, potential reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and other impacts on sustainability.

Proposals are due October 22 and can be submitted online.

"We realize 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 e-mail to media outlets.

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John Fontana

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