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Alternative Vehicle Loan That Helped Fund Tesla, Fisker Might Be Back

 
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Photo from flickr user Photos8.com

Photo from flickr user Photos8.com

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The system of Energy Department loans set up in 2007 to promote the development of green technology has come under plenty of criticism, both ideological and political. Following the high-profile failures of several companies that accepted loans from the DoE, the system was put on hold in March 2011--and hasn't granted a loan since. That may now change, as the Obama administration considers re-starting the $25 billion loan program to kick-start more green vehicle technology.

Speaking to The Detroit News, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said the government is "looking at what a new (loan) solicitation might look like...we are actively looking at what might be an effective new (request for proposals)."

The original loan program has been more successful than the heavy criticism suggests. Most recently, electric car startup Tesla Motors paid back every penny of the $465 million it was granted through the program, a full nine years early. Ford used some of its $5.9 billion investment to produce its Ecoboost range of downsized turbocharged engines used across its lineup, and Nissan received $1.4 billion, which has gone towards its electric vehicle program, headed by the Leaf.

Less successful was Fisker Automotive--the plug-in automaker still struggling to find investors or buyers months after laying off most of its staff and over a year since producing its last vehicle. In February, Michigan-based Vehicle Production Group LLC also stopped production, following a $50 million DoE loan for producing wheelchair-accessible natural gas vehicles. Other DoE loan recipients have also faltered, including the high-profile bankruptcy of Solyndra, which took over half a billion dollars in government loans down with it.

Alternative energy loans are still on the cards according to Moniz, while Congress is pushing Moniz to extend the scheme to auto parts suppliers and other businesses. Meanwhile, he's reportedly bullish about the prospects of electric car sales--while Obama's target for 1 million EVs may not be hit in 2015, it could be a soon as 2016 if the current rate of growth is maintained.

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