doe logoTo date, only four loans from the DOE's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan (ATVMP) program have been fully processed: $528.7 million to Fisker, $1.4 billion to Nissan, $465 milion to Tesla and $5.9 billion to Ford. Add them all up, and you get to around $8.3 billion. That might sound like a great amount of money to spur development of cleaner vehicles in the U.S., but if you've been following the ATVMP story, then you know that the program originally had $25 billion to hand out. It's been a long time since we've heard anything about the many, many applications for funds (100 groups applied for over $42 billion), so what's up with the rest of the money?

The Detroit News reports that, in short, it's a mess. Here's a choice quote:

Some applications for the low-cost government loans have languished for more than two years. Projects have collapsed and some small companies are barely hanging on, hoping the money arrives in time. Some loans have taken another seven months to close after being approved.

The ATVMP started in September 2008, and the last big announcement happened in April 2010. There was a fifth award – $50 million to Vehicle Production Group LLC to build a CNG-powered wheelchair-accessible car – but the loan hasn't closed. The Detroit News has obtained letters from members of Congress complaining about the slow pace of the loan process. Most importantly, the DOE might not be able to hand out the entire $25 billion because of higher-than-expected costs.

Problems with the ATVMP have already spawned one lawsuit that alleges bias against small companies. The brief was filed by XP Vehicles (which has an electric inflatable car concept) "on behalf of the independent American alternative energy vehicle manufacturers." It's not just the small companies that are waiting. Chrysler still hasn't heard back from the DOE, but CEO Sergio Marchionne told DN that he hopes the loan will be closed by the end of March.

Of course, some people think not giving out the loans is kind of a good thing.

[Source: Detroit News]