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.
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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.
2014 Tesla Model S 'P85D' all-wheel-drive model
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.
ALSO SEE: Advanced Auto-Tech Loans Go To Tesla, Ford, and Nissan (June 2009)
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.
Nissan lithium-ion cell fabrication & battery pack assembly at Nissan plant in Smyrna, Tennessee
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.
MORE: Startup Bright Automotive Shuts Down, Slams DoE Loan Process (Feb 2012)
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.
2015 Ford F-150
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.