Proving once again that brevity isn't its strength, the US Department of Energy (DOE) put out its version of a request for proposals that will involve doling out $20 million to help create a plug-in vehicle that competes with gas-powered cars.

Under a program called the "Robust Affordable Next Generation EV-Storage (RANGE)," the DOE will give out grants ranging from $250,000 to $10 million in an attempt to push the auto industry to a sweet spot of sorts: a $30,000 electric vehicle that can go 240 miles on a single charge. You can check out the DOE's 55-page manifesto here. "The program goal is to enable a 3X increase in electric vehicle range (from ~80 to ~240 miles per charge) with a simultaneous price reduction of > 1/3 (to ~ $30,000)," the statement says. "If successful, these vehicles will provide near cost and range parity to gasoline-powered ICE vehicles." Since 2009, the DOE's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) has spent about $770 million on 285 projects.

As an example for 2012 numbers, the DOE compares a Nissan Leaf EV to a Nissan Versa and thus estimates that the payback period for an EV, taking into account the higher new-car price and lower refueling costs, is about seven years, inclusive of government subsidies. The deadline for submissions is March 21.

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