There have been some very public successes and failures from the Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan program, most notably Tesla and Fisker, but the US government is not yet finished. It's been a while – no ATVM loans have been given out since 2011 – but the DOE is finally getting ready to find homes for the billions still at hand. DOE spokeswoman Aoife McCarthy told Bloomberg that, "With no sunset date and more than $15 billion in remaining authority, the program plans to conduct an active outreach campaign to educate industry associations and potential applicants about the substantial remaining funds available and the application process in general." Earlier this year, the DOE said it was done handing out automotive loans through the ATVM program.

Despite being a Bush-era program, the ATVM loan program has been the subject of Republican criticisms and investigations on the Hill. The most public was when Henrik Fisker and other Fisker executives were called to testify earlier this year. The program's most public success was when Tesla paid back its $465-million government loan nine years early, something that didn't always fit the talking point. The other big recipients of ATVM loan money were Ford ($5.9 billion) and Nissan ($1.6 billion), which are reportedly on track to pay back their money on time. A number of automotive companies and projects, including Carbon Motors, Aptera and Bright Automotive, were shuttered or slowed by the lack of DOE action.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 98 Comments
      Scooter
      • 1 Year Ago
      No more loans to super car makers. This program needs much heavier oversight. What good is a DOE loan on "our" backs if its only providing toys for Justin Beiber to be seen in? I believe strongly in the ripple effect, but we really don't need more EV supercars/premium 6 figure cars. I fear this program is becoming a go to for startups who use the EV as a launch to build premium 6 figure cars with vapor promises of "joe schmoe" models.
        LynxFX
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Scooter
        There is a reason why new auto companies start out in the luxury/highend market first. R&D. Lots and lots of expensive R&D to get a vehicle designed and developed. The fastest way to make a return on that investment is to create a more expensive vehicle. Doing so does two things, it allows a vehicle with potentially less compromises and it is a huge marketing win. People hear about your car. They see your car. They want your car. Now that you are in the public's mind, you can start with creation of a mass consumer product using the lessons learned on the highend vehicle and reducing costs where you can. Here is a prime example of how reason two plays a major part. Two production ready EV startups for sale last year. Both went under. The highend toy for Beiber as you put it, went for $110k. Obviously you have heard of it, you've seen pictures of it. You probably saw a review of it on Top Gear. A mass consumer priced EV called The Coda with a price of $37k. They aimed directly at the in town commuter. You probably never even saw a picture of one. Creating a car company from scratch is an extremely hard and expensive thing to do. The ones that succeed tend to have an expensive halo model as their starting point. That's just the way it is.
      conslaw
      • 1 Year Ago
      They should use a big chunk of the money to help schools buy hybrid school buses as well as natural gas busses.
        skierpage
        • 1 Year Ago
        @conslaw
        "Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program". Read those six words more carefully.
        BipDBo
        • 1 Year Ago
        @conslaw
        Not a bad idea. School buses stop and go a lot, and would benefit big time with hybrids. The federal investment could pay for itself in long term savings from local government expenses. All the while, it would promote the technology. The problem is that there really isn't a hybrid system of that size that is good and affordable. Perhaps it would be good for the DOE to promote the development of one. Perhaps the DOE could not just offer a loan to develop the technology but also put in place low interest loan programs to small utilities and municipalities to pay for the larger initial investments. How about a hybrid drivetrain for mail trucks, garbage trucks and police vehicles?
          BipDBo
          • 1 Year Ago
          @BipDBo
          EV school buses seem like a good idea, but they would need to be built cheaply enough so that their total lifetime cost was the same or lower than the diesel equivalents. That's going to be hard to do if its true that school buses travel less total miles per year than the average auto. School boards may want to be green, but they must make budget. With a predictable route distance, though, range anxiety shouldn't be an issue. I've seen the hybrid buses everywhere, but didn't know about garbage trucks. My understanding was that there were a few experimental models out there, much like the hydraulic UPS trucks, but we that we are a long way away from affordability and widespread use. Do you know differently? It seems like hybrid mail trucks would be a no brainer if one of the manufacturers would actually build an affordable hybrid minivan. Police cars sit a lot, just idling to power AC and electronics. Even just a simple start stop system with a bigger battery bank would save enormous amounts of fuel on police cars.
          me_not_you
          • 1 Year Ago
          @BipDBo
          I agree that the school bus hybrids may be cost prohibited based off of miles and the life of a school bus. Apparently atleast in Pennsylvania the average age of a school bus fleet cannot exceed 7 years. I agree hybridization would be a good plan for garbage and postal trucks. Cummins recently launched this product, so it is likely down the road. https://www.cumminsgeneratortechnologies.com/en/products/motorgenerator/ Bright Automotive was a hybrid delivery van / work truck, and the DOE already killed it. I think Bright and Carbon had good products / plans and the DOE money is just posion to small start ups. If someone does utilize this it will have to be someone like Ford or Nissan agian.
          m_2012
          • 1 Year Ago
          @BipDBo
          Garbage trucks and city buses already use hybrid tech which would likely be suited for school buses. EV would be a good solution also as many school buses travel way less than the range provided with lots of stop and go which would benefit from regen. Maintenance and fuel costs would go way down, helping local economies, minus the gas stations which provide little economic impact anyways.
        Scooter
        • 1 Year Ago
        @conslaw
        Expand the bike lane and give all those fat kids bicycles. Kids are lazy and fat enough as it is.
      BipDBo
      • 1 Year Ago
      Activist reporting much?
      EJ
      • 1 Year Ago
      autoblog + politics = flame wars ahead
        Raz
        • 1 Year Ago
        @EJ
        I despise these so called editors, last year they attacked Mitt Romney, his kids and Mormonism.....on this website. They hire some dude here, forgot his lastname, he writes for AOL Auto, i go to his Twitter account and he posted that Romney is a racists, read another post Romney wants to bring back slavery. That dude writes for this website.
        Greg
        • 1 Year Ago
        @EJ
        anything + politics = flame wars ahead
        Raz
        • 1 Year Ago
        @EJ
        Here he is https://twitter.com/davidkiley This was posted few days ago @JimDeMint Obamacare gives access to people who couldn't get affordable healthcare. And healthcare should be disentangled from employment. He is the head AUTO Editor, he is in charge or the AUTOblog.
      BipDBo
      • 1 Year Ago
      How about we also mix in some religion that doesn't other wise belong in this context? Oh yeah, one comment down.
      BipDBo
      • 1 Year Ago
      EVnerdGene, Thanks for the technical correction, but I really doubt anyone thought I was quoting the protestant reformer.
      bluepongo1
      • 1 Year Ago
      *Tips hat to ABG* Nice job following up this story with a story about global petroleum use hitting a record high. I guess some folks politics mean they deny others the freedom to choose... EV's... and like being gouged on gas. ;-)
      EVnerdGene
      • 1 Year Ago
      Martin Luther King Jr.
      mustang_sallad
      • 1 Year Ago
      wow, he sounds evil! I guess I'll look elsewhere for my automotive news.
      m_2012
      • 1 Year Ago
      AB, why show a failed example (Fisker) instead of a successful one. That hard up for hits?
        brotherkenny4
        • 1 Year Ago
        @m_2012
        Well yes, mentioning Fisker, or Obama, or Solyndra brings in the loonies. These folks are actually the target audience, since they are more susceptible to the simplistic manipulations of the advertisers. The people who listen to Rush are more susceptible to falsehoods and thus are very important to advertisers, which is why Rush gets any air time at all, his followers are dumb enough to buy things that wouldn't sell without mental coercion. Similarly here, the simpletons spewing the tea party rhetoric are easy marks for people selling things no one needs. It's of course partially why they are so bitter, because they actually think that tendency makes them somehow more patriotic. They are consuming like the leaders want yet they are unhappy because no one is sufficiently impressed with their spending habits. They expect a greater fanfare for such a noble endevour. They are the noble ignorants.
        chirowolf
        • 1 Year Ago
        @m_2012
        Well since the DOE has a 56% failure rate (companies out of business at the time of this article) it is easy to pick a failed company. maybe we should call it the "Doh" instead of the DOE Homer would be proud
          chirowolf
          • 1 Year Ago
          @chirowolf
          No 56% are out of business another 25% are in or filing for bankruptcy. many more will never show a profit. With luck you may get 10% that will be successful. I hope you do not invest like the Government.
          brotherkenny4
          • 1 Year Ago
          @chirowolf
          Just not true. But then the people you hope to convince will never check a source other than you.
          Spec
          • 1 Year Ago
          @chirowolf
          Aptera did NOT get any money. Stop lying Chirowolf.
          Spec
          • 1 Year Ago
          @chirowolf
          Chirowolf you LIED. 56% Of Carmakers Who ***Asked For*** Government 'Green' Loans Are Dead When a bum on the street asks you for a buck and you DON'T give him the buck . . . do you count that as one of your investments that failed? Sheesh.
          chirowolf
          • 1 Year Ago
          @chirowolf
          I love this site Get down voted for showing your sources and pointing out facts Sorry to burst peoples bubbles
          Grendal
          • 1 Year Ago
          @chirowolf
          I was all for Aptera, and for that matter still want one, but I'm very glad they didn't get funding with the idiot they had running the company. He would have squandered the federal money just like he squandered the money they already had. I have to guess there were good reasons that the other companies didn't get money too. Coda had very questionable backers from commenters here that know about them.
          Grendal
          • 1 Year Ago
          @chirowolf
          He got the information from a bad article from jalopnik that he put as his "proof." It is an informative article about who asked for loans and who received them from the ATVM. The problem comes from the bizarre conclusion that jalopnik came to and chirowolf used to make his erroneous point. Thanks for the informative response, raktmn. The numbers you cite are spot on and correct. 2.7% is a very reasonable failure rate considering that the successes have done exactly what the program was created for. The successes have more than paid for the losses and further boosted the economy and put America back on a competitive foot with the world's automotive industry.
          Grendal
          • 1 Year Ago
          @chirowolf
          Asking for a loan is hardly the same as getting the loan. Of course the failure rate would be sky high for those asking for a loan. It sounds like the DOE made some smart decisions by NOT giving those companies money. That's the opposite of the point you were trying to make, chirowolf, Thanks for the link. It's a really odd article. It is a "what if?" article.
          m_2012
          • 1 Year Ago
          @chirowolf
          Nope, I'm all in on Tesla right now. I am betting its more than 10%. Any sources or are you making this up?
          Spec
          • 1 Year Ago
          @chirowolf
          @Ele Truk Well, you need to make your milestones and you need have business plan that still makes sense. Solyndra's technology just didn't make sense any more. They couldn't get prices down like they though and the price of silicon dropped through the floor. Solyndra failed because other technology did even better. And part of the reason they failed is because China gave even bigger government subsidies to their PV businesses. So I think the DoE was right to cut off failing companies and companies that did not meet their milestones. (*Cough*Fisker*Cough*)
          chirowolf
          • 1 Year Ago
          @chirowolf
          http://jalopnik.com/56-of-the-carmakers-who-asked-for-government-green-l-510296228
          m_2012
          • 1 Year Ago
          @chirowolf
          So that's roughly half. With that logic, it would be just as easy to pick a successful one. These are loans for start-up "green" companies; 50% sounds like a pretty good success rate actually. If its so easy, get some free money.
          Ele Truk
          • 1 Year Ago
          @chirowolf
          But companies like CODA that were waiting for federal funds had to close up shop because they never arrived. Government oversight wasn't built into the funding, or at least effective oversight wasn't. Then they just cut everything off wholesale, rather than fixing the program. I am hoping if they restart the program, they take this into consideration.
          Ele Truk
          • 1 Year Ago
          @chirowolf
          Part of the problem is that the DOE loans got cut off in midstride. Because of the Solyndra backlash, the government stopped making payments on their loans. It's really hard to get a business going when the bank that's funding it suddenly decides to stop. Makes it a self fulfilling prophecy - they can't survive without government loans... see they die when we cut them off. Ignores the fact that the companies were still in startup mode. Only Tesla managed to get ramped up to full production before the fed choked the funds.
          chirowolf
          • 1 Year Ago
          @chirowolf
          Detroit Motors received government loans and is about to enter bankruptcy. How about Coda? The only successful company I can find is Tesla. Tesla is not turning a profit by selling cars. Their profit is simple investment, not car sales. I'm not against investing in the future, but there has to be some kind of accountability for wastefully throwing tax payer money at companies that have no chance. I would have bet on Fisker , Tesla, GM etc... but Coda and Aptera? come on
          chirowolf
          • 1 Year Ago
          @chirowolf
          profitable due to car sales I would have to guess is 0% A sad truth
          Justin
          • 1 Year Ago
          @chirowolf
          Um...those percentages still beat the private market by a pretty wide margin in terms of investments and startups. I'd call those excellent odds. Keep the program going.
          raktmn
          • 1 Year Ago
          @chirowolf
          chirowolf, you are a liar, as noted before. Saying the DOE is responsible for the failure of applicants who never were approved for a single penny of loan dollars, is like saying the credit card companies are responsible for the bankruptcies of every single person who applied for a credit card and was denied. What utter rubbish. Here are the DOE ATVM loans: 5.9 Billion to Ford, approx 600 million paid back. 1.6 Billion to Nissan, approx 160 million paid back. 465 Million to Tesla, approx 482 million paid back including interest and prepayment penalty 174 Million outstanding from Fisker. 50 Million outstanding from VPG natural gas commercial vans. That is a total of 8.189 Billion in loans, of which, 1.242 Billion (15 percent) has been paid off, and 225 Million (2.7% percent) of the loans facing default. That 2.7% of loans of 225 million will easily be recouped in interest payments from the other loans, leaving the entire ATVM DOE loan program PROFITABLE overall. This is how investors make money in venture capital. They build a portfolio so when there are failures, they will make a profit anyways. In fact, they expect there to be failures. You should stick to putting pennies in your piggy bank. You can't figure out the failure rate of a portfolio, or even understand the difference between companies that are given loans and not given loans. Keep out of the way of the DOE while they make profits for you and I, while you idiotically claim 56% failure rate when it is actually a 2.7% failure rate in their investment portfolio that will easily be recoupled by the successful loan programs.
      Spec
      • 1 Year Ago
      Ben Bernakke has chastised the Congress for not doing any fiscal stimulus. So why not go ahead and use this pre-allocated old Bush administration program to do some fiscal stimulus? Just spend it wisely.
        EZEE
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Spec
        Meanwhile, from USA today: In a statement after a two-day policymaking meeting, the Fed said it will keep buying $85 billion a month in Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities until the job market improves substantially. The purchases increase the assets' prices and push down their yields, lowering interest rates broadly Lets see...carry the one....so a bit over $1 trillion a years in the fed buying our own debt to stimulate jobs, and we need congress to do more. You realize this is insane, right?
          Spec
          • 1 Year Ago
          @EZEE
          Is it insane though? Comparing central banking policy to a family budget is also insane. Without new money, there would be a deflationary death spiral. I'm no expert on central banking policy. But I can see that all people that said hyperinflation would have happened by now have been proven wrong. And Japan has printed far more than we have and they are doing OK. But if Congress did some fiscal stimulus then the Fed would not have been so aggressive with Monetary stimulus. The GOP is all for fiscal stimulus except when a Democrat is the white house. Then it sudden becomes the wrong thing to do.
          EZEE
          • 1 Year Ago
          @EZEE
          Japan is doing okay? Really? The 'lost decade' has turned into the 'lost 20 years.
          EVnerdGene
          • 1 Year Ago
          @EZEE
          @Spec http://money.cnn.com/2009/02/10/news/economy/yang_newdeal.fortune/ Stimuli have proven over and over again to do little but increase national debt - like in Japan. Increasing taxes have proven over and over again to decrease revenues. We would be much better off if government would have gone on a 5-year recess in 2008 - haven't had a budget since then anyway - fuddling around like a ship without a rudder or compass. BTW: What caused all of these problems in the first place ? Government intervention in the housing market ? Incredible amount of government oversight in the financial community - yet Bernie Madoff could pull off a huge scam right under their stupid stupid stupid noses. We're from the government and we're here to help - cause we are smarter than you. Get government out of our lives and the economy will improve. I said that 5 years ago. Instead now we have yet another albatross out-of-control program just starting to pile-on more national debt - will little to show but increasing our healthcare costs, and decreasing quality of care. Thanks aszholes.
          EVnerdGene
          • 1 Year Ago
          @EZEE
          insane, right? insane, left? Long-term loan to Ford and Nissan? Just think about it. We print money now, make long-term loans, and then they pay it back with over 25 years with much cheaper dollars (after inevitable hyperinflation). It's really just a gift. Where do I get in line for these gifts? BTW: EVs have been stimulated. Every major manufacturer has EVs - having to reduce the price, to get people to buy them [ except Tesla, and they'll no doubt saturate the market soon also, especially with competition - coming ]. Did stimulating EVs actually do any good; or was the technology just ripe ? Spend your way out of debt ! ( hey we found some dough over here that has already been authorized for disbursement, let's pay back some donors )
      Car Guy
      • 1 Year Ago
      Liberal government - something fails so let's throw even more money at it because its sure to work this time....... Sigh...........
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