*This post has been updated to reflect the nature of the new funding.

Five years ago this week, the US Department of Energy finished the paperwork on its Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) loan to Tesla Motors. Despite a lot of controversy about that program, Tesla managed to pay back the $465 million loan early and with interest. The DOE made four other loans under the ATVM program – to Ford, Nissan, Fisker and a small startup, VPG, that wanted to make natural gas powered vehicles for people in wheelchairs. Ford and Nissan are paying the money back, Fisker and VPG are not.

Speaking at the Washington Auto Show this week, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said that while the two loans "did not fully perform," the portfolio overall is doing well. Even the vehicle that VPG was going to make is still moving forward because another company stepped in. That's why Moniz was proud to discuss details of a separate funding program that will hand out over $55 million for what the DOE calls, "cutting-edge vehicle technologies that strengthen the clean energy economy." Moniz said the new money – as well as a separate $35-million funding program that will be available in February – will be used for improved batteries and other electrification technologies, lightweight materials and better engines for both light- and heavy-duty vehicles. One thing Moniz singled out was a way to make recharging an EV even easier. "This is directly supporting our EV Everywhere Grand Challenge," he said. The Secretary joked that the manager of the new funds has just had a baby, so anyone who wants some of the money should apply soon, while he's still groggy.

U.S. Secretary of Energy Dr. Ernest Moniz | 2015 Washington Auto Show


"Our goal is to help establish these industries and help them grow," Moniz said, adding that the DOE may emphasize private partnerships in handing out the new loans. The two consequences of that would be to increase the amount of money available and also that, "we think there is an advantage in bringing more lenders and more banks to have experience in terms of getting into debt financing across this whole spectrum of technologies."

Moniz said that the US government is handing out all of this money on generous terms. We asked the one company that has gone through the process successfully how it all worked out, and Alexis Georgeson, Tesla Communications, told AutoblogGreen that, "Tesla remains extremely appreciative of the Department of Energy and the members of Congress who created the ATVM program that awarded Tesla this loan in 2010. We are thankful to have been able to pay off the loan, in full, nine years early." Who's got next?

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Energy Secretary Moniz Unveils More Than $55 Million to Advance Fuel Efficient Vehicle Technologies

WASHINGTON – Following the State of the Union Address on Tuesday, January 20st in which President Obama highlighted the surge in U.S. manufacturing and the strong growth in the auto industry, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz today announced more than $55 million to develop and deploy cutting-edge vehicle technologies that strengthen the clean energy economy. These technologies will play a key role in increasing fuel efficiency and reducing petroleum consumption, and support the Energy Department's EV Everywhere Grand Challenge to make plug-in electric vehicles as affordable to own and operate as today's gasoline-powered vehicles by 2022.

"Energy Department investments in advanced vehicle technologies have had a major impact on the industry, driving down costs for consumers and reducing carbon emissions," said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. "These projects will continue America's leadership in building safe, reliable, and efficient vehicles to support a strong, 21st century transportation system."

The funding opportunity announced today will go towards a wide range of research, development, and demonstration projects that aim to reduce the price and improve the efficiency of plug-in electric, alternative fuel, and conventional vehicles. Topics addressed include:

·Advanced batteries (including manufacturing processes) and electric drive R&D
·Lightweight materials
·Advanced combustion engine and enabling technologies R&D
·Fuels technologies (dedicated or dual-fuel natural gas engine technologies

The Department will fund cost-shared projects with private industry, national laboratories, and university led-teams. For more information and application requirements, please click HERE.

In addition, the Energy Department has announced up to $35 million to advance fuel cell and hydrogen technologies, including enabling the early adoption of fuel cell applications, such as light duty fuel cell electric vehicles. This new funding opportunity announcement will be available in early February.

The Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) accelerates development and facilitates deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies and market-based solutions that strengthen U.S. energy security, environmental quality, and economic vitality. The Vehicle Technologies Office funds research and development for energy efficient and environmentally friendly vehicle technologies. To learn more about the program, please visit the Vehicle Technologies Office website.

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