Government program that loaned billions to Tesla, Fisker restarting

The US Department of Energy's $25 billion low-interest loan program may be about to start awarding new loans for the first time since 2011. The program, which handed out loans to Tesla, Fisker, and Ford, assists companies in producing vehicles with higher energy efficiency than the models they replace.

Ringo H.W. Chiu/AP/File
A guest test drives Tesla Motors' new version of its Model S sedan, the P85D, in Hawthorne, Calif. The Department of Energy's $25 billion Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATVM) program, which granted loans to Tesla and Fisker, is set to restart, providing support to automakers with the goal of producing more energy-efficient vehicles.

It's baaaaaaaaack.

The U.S. Department of Energy's $25 billion low-interest loan program may be about to start awarding new loans.

The DoE's Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATVM) program endured intense political criticism for funding not only electric-car maker Tesla Motors but also Fisker Automotive, on which it ultimately lost $139 million.

Tesla, on the other hand, paid off its entire loan in May 2013, several years early, using the proceeds from issuing more stock.

The ATVM program awards low-interest loans to assist companies in producing vehicles with substantially higher energy efficiency than the models they replace.

It also notably loaned $5.9 billion to Ford, within a few months of the time that the U.S. government bailed out and restructured its domestic competitors General Motors and

Chrysler. Those funds were largely used to expands the company's production of downsized, turbocharged EcoBoost engines.

And it also loaned $1.6 billion to Nissan, which used the funds to add Leaf electric-car production to its assembly plant in Smyrna, Tennessee, along with a new and adjacent plant for lithium-ion cell fabrication.

But there have been no new loans since late 2011, and more than $15 billion remains allocated to the program.

Meanwhile, several startup carmakers that had pinned their hopes on those loans--among them Aptera, Bright, and VPG--have since failed.

The new loans, according to a report Tuesday in The Detroit News, are likely to go not to carmakers but to parts suppliers.

One or two new loans are expected to be announced this year, according to Peter W. Davidson,executive director of the DoE's Loan Programs Office.

Among the areas cited for investment are lighter-weight materials for vehicles.

The newspaper noted that in May, the Department posted a document on its website that revealed it had completed an environmental review of a loan to Alcoa, the large aluminum maker.

It supplies Ford with aluminum for the all-new 2015 Ford F-150 full-size pickup truck, whose cab and pickup bed are made of the lightweight metal.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.