After three years of regrouping, the government is ready to restart its controversial green technology loan program, but with a renewed focus on suppliers and weight savings, reports The Detroit News. Will the revamped program quiet critics, or just give them another issue to bark about?
The Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loan program was suspended after it came under criticism following several high-profile government-backed failures. This included Solyndra, which benefitted from another government loan program, as well as Fisker Motors and the Vehicle Production group, both of which went bankrupt and were forced to find new buyers. Fisker was awarded a total of $529 million but only drew on more than half that before going under, leaving taxpayers on the hook for an estimated $139 million. The Vehicle Production group also received $50 million from the program and went bust, though like Fisker it has since found a buyer willing to give it a second chance.
While the loss of nearly $200 million of taxpayer money isn’t exactly small potatoes, the program loaned out a total of $8.4 billion, including $465 million to Tesla for research and development, $5.9 billion for Ford to retool its plants, and $1.4 billion for Nissan to build a battery factory. All things considered, the loans were a smashing success. Alas, people only see two highly-publicized failures, and the program, which still has $16 billion in funding to hand out, was put on the back burner.
But the ATVM loan program is back. and instead of focusing on major automakers, the program will support parts suppliers and research into lowering vehicle weight. Aluminum and carbon fiber manufacturers could be beneficiaries of the renewed focus of the loan program, though not awards have been announced just yet. Lowering the curb weight of a car is one of the most effective ways to improve its efficiency, and it will hopefully result in less loud-mouthed controversy this time around.