The money will fund 10 to 20 two-year projects that "address barriers to the adoption of these vehicles" and "drive market development" to make alternative fuel vehicles and fueling stations widely available.
"This funding opportunity does not provide for the purchase or installation of vehicles or infrastructure," the Energy Department said.
Instead – among other things – the funding will "help consumers understand the economic and environmental benefits of alternative fuel vehicles and choose the right vehicle for their needs."
It also will speed up the permitting process for the infrastructure needed to support alternative fuel vehicles. And some of the money will go to training first-responders and mechanics who will have to deal with accidents and repairs involving the vehicles.
The Energy Department's push to create a market for alternative fuel and electric vehicles is part of President Obama's effort to address the high price of gasoline and reduce American dependence on foreign oil.
The Energy Department says it is working on a broad range of efforts to "protect American families and businesses from high gasoline prices and provide consumers with more options that reduce petroleum use."
That includes biofuels research and development, natural gas and other alternative fuel vehicles, advanced combustion engines and electric vehicles.
As CNSNews.com previously reported, the U.S. Agriculture Department is actively pushing the oil industry to help it make high-ethanol gasoline blends commercially viable.
Fuel blends that contain 15 percent ethanol -- up from the current 10 percent -- present a major infrastructure challenge because gasoline pumps will have to be changed, and so will car engines.
To allow wider use of E15, the Obama administration plans to help gas station owners install 10,000 blender pumps over the next 5 years.
In addition, both through the Recovery (stimulus) Act and the 2008 Farm Bill, the U.S. Energy and Agriculture Departments have provided grants, loans and loan guarantees to "spur American ingenuity" on the next generation of biofuels.
Last month, visiting a truck manufacturing plant in North Carolina, President Obama announced a $1-billion "challenge" to help boost the deployment of clean, advanced vehicles all over America:
"To cities and towns all across the country, what we’re going to say is, if you make a commitment to buy more advanced vehicles for your community -- whether they run on electricity or biofuels or natural gas -- we’ll help you cut through the red tape and build fueling stations nearby. And we’ll offer tax breaks to families that buy these cars, companies that buy alternative fuel trucks like the ones that are made right here at Mount Holly. So we’re going to give communities across the country more of an incentive to make the shift to more energy-efficient cars," Obama said.
For consumers, President Obama wants to increase the existing tax credit for electric vehicles from $7,500 to $10,000, reform the credit so that people benefit as soon as they purchase a new car instead of when they file their taxes, and expand the credit so that it can be applied to a broader range of advanced vehicles, including those powered by natural gas. The President is also proposing a new tax credit to help businesses with the cost of purchasing alternative-fuel commercial trucks.