MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA — Internet search giant Google hopes to speed the development of plug-in hybrid cars by giving away millions of dollars to people and companies that have what appear to be practical ways to get plug-ins to market faster, according to USA Today. The money totals just $1 million so far, with another $10 million pledged.

The grants are meant to “advocate plug-ins, research vehicle-to-grid technology, and promote federal policy that encourages plug-ins, educate people about plug-ins, promote research, design, and development of plug-ins.”

General Motors is the only major automaker that has announced specific plans to market plug-in vehicles, as soon as 2010. “We applaud them for the investment in plug-in hybrid vehicle technologies,” said Brian Corbett, GM’s hybrid powertrain spokesman, as quoted by USA Today. “Every little bit helps.”

The federal government also plans to spend $28 million on plug-in component research in fiscal 2008.

Plug-in hybrids have bigger-capacity batteries than regular gasoline-electric hybrids, so they can go farther using the battery-powered electric motor before they need to switch on the gasoline engine for more power or to recharge the batteries. Plug-ins can be recharged by plugging them into normal household current.

Google has a small fleet of Toyota Prius and Ford Escape hybrids modified plug-ins, and is recording 71 mpg vs. 41 mpg from its ordinary Prius hybrids.

Originally posted on Fleet Financials