Department of Energy Secretary Chu announced the closing of Nissan's $1.4 billion Advanced Technology Vehicle Loan Program loan (originally, the amount was for $1.6 billion) today during the Washington Auto Show. As expected, this money will used to kick off production of the Leaf in the U.S.

While the news, such as it is, is about the all-electric Leaf and the 1,300 jobs this loan is expected to create in Smyrna, TN, Chu's speech touched on all sorts of advanced vehicle technologies, from cleaner gasoline engines to biofuels. Chu's statement about hydrogen, which part of the DOE's $13 billion advanced vehicle technology budget, was "longer in the distance, but we're still in there."

While discussing some of the other projects the DOE is funding, Chu somewhat surprisingly called the Fisker Karma "not a high-end cost vehicle," depending on who you are, and said that the Chevrolet Volt and the Tesla Model S were examples of "strong electric vehicle projects." Full details in the press release after the jump.
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Department of Energy Announces Closing of Loan Agreement to Bring Production of Nissan LEAF, Battery to North America

Loan used to modify Smyrna, Tenn., manufacturing plant for production in 2012

WASHINGTON, Jan. 28 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Today, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced that the Department of Energy has closed a $1.4 billion loan agreement with Nissan North America, Inc. The loan will support the modification of Nissan's Smyrna, Tenn., manufacturing plant to produce the Nissan LEAF, a zero-emission, all-electric vehicle, and the lithium-ion battery packs to power them.

The loan, which originated through the Department's loan guarantee program office, was issued as part of the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program, a $25 billion program authorized by Congress as part of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The program is designed to accelerate the development of vehicles and technologies that increase U.S. energy independence, create cleaner means of transportation and stimulate the American economy. The loan was finalized after a rigorous financial and technical qualification process.

"Nissan applauds the Department of Energy's support of the development of innovative, advanced vehicle technologies and the creation of clean energy jobs," said Scott Becker, senior vice president, Administration and Finance, Nissan North America. "Nissan is committed to zero-emission mobility. This loan, which will bring production of the Nissan LEAF to Tennessee, is a significant step in sustaining American jobs and American manufacturing."

The loan will result in the creation of up to 1,300 jobs when the plants are operating at full capacity. Modification of the Smyrna manufacturing plant, which will begin later this year, includes a new battery plant and changes in the existing structure for electric-vehicle assembly. When fully operational, the vehicle assembly plant will have the capacity to build 150,000 Nissan LEAF electric cars per year, and the new plant will have an annual capacity of 200,000 batteries.

Nissan, along with its Alliance partner, Renault, is the only automaker committed to mass marketing all-electric vehicles on a global scale. Nissan LEAF, a five-passenger sedan, will be available for private and fleet customers. It is being launched in the U.S., Japan and Europe in December 2010. Nissan has spearheaded a holistic approach to zero-emission mobility by working with states, municipalities, utility companies and other partners, to prepare markets and infrastructure. Nissan has formed more than a dozen partnerships in the United States, in markets including State of Tennessee, the State of Oregon, Sonoma County and San Diego in California, Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz., Washington D.C., Seattle, Raleigh, N.C., and with Houston-based Reliant Energy.

In North America, Nissan's operations include automotive design, engineering, consumer and corporate financing, sales and marketing, distribution and manufacturing. Nissan is dedicated to improving the environment under the Nissan Green Program 2010, whose key priorities are reducing CO2 emissions, cutting other emissions and increasing recycling. More information on the Nissan LEAF and zero emissions can be found at www.nissanusa.com/leaf-electric-car
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Our travel and lodging for this media event were provided by the Auto Alliance.