Germany launched a $23.5 million program Thursday to speed up the development of plug-in hybrids.

The money is slated to develop ways to charge batteries using renewable energy such as solar or wind and also to develop advanced batteries for the vehicles, according to AFP.

The country’s environmental minister, Sigmar Gabriel, announced the program during an event showcasing Volkswagen’s Golf diesel-electric hybrid car in Berlin.

Germany hopes to get 1 million hybrids on the roads by 2020 and 10 million in 2030.

The United States, which has also set aside money for plug-in hybrid development, could soon be upping the ante as well.

During a campaign stop in California on Monday, Republican presidential candidate John McCain said he would offer a $300 million prize for an advanced car battery.

“I further propose we inspire the ingenuity and resolve of the American people by offering a $300 million prize for the development of a battery package that has the size, capacity, cost and power to leapfrog the commercially available plug-in hybrids or electric cars,” McCain said.

Supporters called McCain’s proposal a great incentive for green car innovation. Critics called it “a pointless gimmick.”

While governments figure out how to reduce their citizens’ reliance on fossil fuel, car companies worldwide are racing to introduce electric cars by 2010.

At the Berlin event on Thursday, VW showed off a hybrid Golf, which comes with an electric motor and a diesel engine in a system VW called Twin Drive. VW plans to sell the hybrid in 2010.

"While the e-motor on a typical hybrid model just supplements the combustion engine, the exact opposite is true on Twin Drive," VW chief executive Martin Winterkorn said at the event. "Here the diesel or gasoline engine supplements the e-motor."

Daimler said last week that it plans to roll out an electric Mercedes-Benz and the electric version of its Smart Car in 2010.

Earlier this week, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn said the company would begin selling a battery-powered electric car in the United States and Japan in 2010 and market it globally 2012. General Motors also aims to sell the plug-in Chevrolet Volt in two years (see Chevy Volt Cleared for 2010 Production).