Published on April 3rd, 2014 | by Christopher DeMorro1
DOE Green Loan Program is Back, Focused On Suppliers
The controversial Department of Energy green loan program is back after an extended hiatus, with a renewed focus on the supplier side of the equation. The program has also been revamped to clarify the application process, and decrease the time it took to respond to applicants.
This revamp is in response to the many criticisms leveled at the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program. The program provided funding for five companies; Nissan, Ford, Tesla, Fisker, and Vehicle Production Group. Two of those companies, Fisker and VPG, went bankrupt, though both are back on the road to recovery.
With a fresh face at the Department of Energy comes a fresh look on an old idea with good intentions, but mixed results. The newly revamped program is shifting the focus from automakers to suppliers of fuel-efficient technologies, including “advanced engines and powertrains, light-weighting materials, advanced electronics, and fuel-efficient tires.” There’s also a renewed application process, which better informs potential applicants of the requirement, and improves response time to applicants, a major sticking point for many would-be green automakers.
There are still plenty of critics of the program, which was launched under President George W. Bush, and with two out of five companies ending up in bankruptcy, and other applicants with great ideas left to wither on the vine, the program obviously needed an overhaul. But the success of Tesla Motors, which repaid its government loan ten years early, should not be underestimated. With Nissan Leaf sales gaining some steam, the battery plant the ATVM loan financed is finally being put to use, creating decent-paying American jobs.
Even as we pumped billions into Big Oil tax subsidies, there are those make it their political platform to take issue with funding alternatives to pollution. That said, starting with a blank slate and an all-new program might have been a better idea in a warmer political climate, but I doubt such a program could pass through the current Congress. So we got what we got.
The DOE program survived another day, and hopefully we’ll see more Tesla-esque success stories, and absolutely no Fisker-like failures.