Former president Bush signed the $25 billion Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Incentive Program into life last year, but for the past 8 months, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has sat on the money, carefully evaluating applications to see which companies would make the best use of the funds. That was until last week when the first announcements of disbursement were made from Ford's Research and Innovation Center in Dearborn, Michigan.

The same funding program, earmarked for both automakers and suppliers, would be doubled to $50 billion under a bill passed by the House on Friday night. Attached to the climate-change legislation, the bill now goes to the Senate, where its fate is uncertain. The Senate rejected a similar bill last year, reports Automotive News.

Under the program, up to 80% of the cost of a high-tech fuel-efficient vehicle's project costs can be financed with loaned funds, at a payback period of 25 years at an interest rate of around 4%. But to get that loan, companies must issue a security interest in all property the funds are used to purchase or acquire.

Vehicles built with the loan money must be at least 25% more efficient than required by federal law, effectively ruling out most SUV and trucks, as well as many large sedans, luxury and performance cars.

The latest updates to the bill would require each electric utility to consider creating charging stations on the street, in parking garages and lots, in homes, at fuel stations and at highway rest stops.

So far, the DOE has awarded $5.9 billion in loans to Ford for development of new electric compact car, $1.6 billion to Nissan for construction of a plant in Tennessee for a new electric car, and $465 million to Tesla to help speed up development of the Model S electric sedan. The DOE has said it plans to award much of the remaining $17 billion in the next few months to automakers and parts suppliers.