Google Adds Auto Industry to Its List of Revolutions

Google’s conference this week on plug-in electric vehicles and related federal policy clearly positions the search company’s RechargeIT program as an EV incubator for startups, R&D initiatives and policy discussions. Dan Reicher,’s director of climate change and energy initiatives, opened the conference, which was heavily attended by beltway insiders, by announcing that Google would invest in multiple ventures to make wide-scale plug-in electric cars viable.

The move is almost as bold as Google’s R E Less Than C initiative, which calls for spending hundreds of millions of dollars on renewable energy projects and startups. With this week’s announcement, the search giant now adds transportation to the list of industries it will attempt to revolutionize.

Google certainly has the capital and innovative spirit to tackle such ambitious problems and they are working on building their cred on the Hill. The company only opened its Washington office in 2005, with one employee, but is now hobnobbing with senators and secretaries like the best of them, which it will need to do if it plans to take on the auto and energy lobbies.

The Plug-in Electric Vehicles 2008: What Role for Washington? conference, co-hosted by the Brookings Institute, was an opportunity for big auto makers, policy makers, advocacy groups and startups alike to mingle and discuss the automotive future, all for Google’s observation. Google knows it has a lot to learn about this sector before it commits too much capital.

Valleywag puts the Gawker take on it saying: “[E]veryone really needs to stop referring to as any sort of philanthropic enterprise, and call it what it is — a venture-investment subsidiary.” As Google tries to free its Internet business from wires, it is working increasingly hard to give all of our cars plugs and tie them to the grid.