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The Department of Energy handed out four big loans in the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan program (ATVM): Fisker got $528.7 million (then went bankrupt) Nissan got $1.4 billion, Ford got $5.9 billion (both are repaying on schedule, as far as anyone knows) and Tesla got $465 milion, which was quickly repaid. When it was created under the Bush Administration in September 2008, the ATVM loan program had a budget of $25 billion. The four loans only add up to around $8.3 billion, so the DOE has some money (around $16 billion) to spare. For a number of reasons - funding requests that didn't meet expectations and political pressures, mostly from Republicans - the DOE has not handed out any money since 2011.

That will likely change, since DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz announced today that the ATVM loan program is being improved with an eye towards suppliers, as you can read in the DOE's letter to the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (PDF). The overall drive to get cleaner cars on the roads remains the driving force behind the ATVM program, but instead of giving money directly to automakers, the new plan is to look at companies that help make fuel-efficient technologies possible. This "may include, but are not limited to, advanced engines and powertrains, light-weighting materials, advanced electronics, and fuel-efficient tires." Interested applicants can start an application here.

Last fall, the DOE announced it would start an "active outreach campaign" to generate more interest in the loan program. Now, the DOE wants to "improve the program, clarify eligibility requirements and increase responsiveness to applicants." It makes sense that the DOE is striving to make the program better, since some now-defunct automakers laid part of the blame for their failure on the "unmitigated disaster" of the loan program.
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Sec. Moniz Discusses Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loans

Improved ATVM Program to Accelerate U.S. Auto Manufacturing Growth, Help Auto Component Manufacturers Scale Up

Washington D.C. - U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz today will highlight key improvements to the Department's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) Loan Program at the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA) Legislative Summit. The ATVM Loan Program plays a crucial role in supporting the growth of the U.S. auto manufacturing industry-including automotive component manufacturing-by helping manufacturers scale up to meet rising demand for fuel-efficient vehicles.

"The U.S. auto industry has evolved since the ATVM Program was established and today we are presented with an opportunity to hit the accelerator on U.S. auto manufacturing growth," said Secretary Moniz. "Motor vehicle parts manufacturers play a significant role in the development and deployment of new technologies to meet the demand for fuel-efficient vehicles and we believe the ATVM Loan Program can play an important financing role as the industry establishes the next generation of manufacturing facilities in the United States."

The ATVM Program, administered by the Department's Loan Programs Office (LPO), has more than $16 billion in remaining loan authority to support the production of fuel-efficient, advanced technology vehicles and components in the U.S. After considering comments from MEMA members, automotive leaders, and industry organizations regarding the effectiveness of the program, the Department is announcing steps to improve the program, clarify eligibility requirements and increase responsiveness to applicants.

This morning, the Department sent a letter to MEMA outlining the following steps it is taking to improve the ATVM Loan Program:

Clarified Eligibility For Component Suppliers: LPO has clarified that a broad range of automotive component technologies are eligible for the program. These fuel-efficient technologies may include, but are not limited to, advanced engines and powertrains, light-weighting materials, advanced electronics, and fuel-efficient tires.

Improved Responsiveness to Applicants: LPO has updated its program description to describe the application process, eligibility requirements, and the program's mission and goals. LPO also offers pre-application consultations with potential applicants to promote an open and transparent exchange of information about the program, its eligibility requirements, and loan terms.

Revised the Application Process: We recognize the need for timely processing of applications and a clear understanding of the types of information required during due diligence. We launched an online application portal (https://apply.loanprograms.energy.gov/) to facilitate and improve the ease of the application process.

To date, the ATVM Program has provided approximately $8.4 billion in financing for projects with total project costs of over $14 billion. According to borrower's estimates, ATVM loans have supported approximately 35,000 direct jobs across eight states: California, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Kentucky, New York and Tennessee.

Currently, the Department's Loan Programs Office supports a large, diverse portfolio of more than $30 billion in loans, loan guarantees, and commitments, supporting more than 30 closed and committed projects. The projects that LPO has supported include one of the world's largest wind farms; several of the world's largest solar generation and thermal energy storage systems; and more than a dozen new or retooled auto manufacturing plants across the country.