Vehicle technology is advancing rapidly: Soon, all cars on the road will talk to each other, avoiding collisions, and some day, we may see driverless cars become mainstream. And when it comes to car basics that make plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) more affordable, the U.S. Department of Energy wants to play a role, which is why in late January, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz last announced nearly $50 million in funding for research and development of new vehicle technologies -- more specifically, providing added environmental protection in the nation’s communities.

The Energy Department’s EV Everywhere Grand Challenge features an example of these options; it is a broader initiative launched in March 2012, and within the next 10 years, aims to make PEVs more affordable and convenient to both drive and own in comparison to today’s vehicles.

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Significant advances have already been achieved in universities and national laboratories; in the last four years, the cost of manufacturing electric vehicle batteries has been cut by 50 percent.

“Today, the American auto industry is on the rise, experiencing the best period of growth in more than a decade. Moniz said during the announcement. "The new research and development funding announced today will help support our domestic automakers’ continued growth and make sure that the next generation of advanced technology vehicles are built right here in America."

These advances entail accomplishments like the reduction of the size and weight of PEV batteries by 60 percent, as well as the improvement of overall vehicle performance and durability. In addition, Americans purchased nearly 100,000 PEVs in 2013 -- nearly twice as many as were sold in 2012. This number means the PEV market is on track to pass the 200,000 sales milestone two years before hybrid electric vehicles reached this goal.