The Pentagon, the federal government's largest user of oil and historical early adopter of cutting-edge technologies, has quietly placed its next big energy bet on plug-in electric vehicles.

The bet isn't as big as the Navy's wager on advanced biofuels, which sparked a congressional battle that lasted for the better part of last year. But industry experts say it could be a game changer for a section of the market still trying to find its footing.

The Defense Department plans to spend $20 million in the first year of a pilot program testing a fleet of plug-in electric trucks, buses and related infrastructure that will allow them to communicate with the power grid. Such "vehicle-to-grid" (V2G) technology uses the vehicles' batteries as storage, moving power back and forth between parked vehicles and power lines based upon the utility's needs -- something companies are willing to pay a pretty penny for.

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