Senior officials from the Department of Energy have signaled the Obama administration is ready to restart a controversial automotive loan program designed to kick-start the development of alternative vehicles.
The program was effectively put on hold two years ago after several problems, and the halt in funding was blamed for the failure of several potentially promising recipients—while critics faulted poor oversight for the loss of money loaned to several other start-ups.
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A total of $15 billion, or 60 percent of the original $25 billion set aside for the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program is still set aside and there is no official end date the administration has to meet.
But proponents point to the need to rush new technologies to market to meet upcoming increases in fuel economy standards—and they point to California start-up Tesla Motors as a successful example of what the ATVM program was meant to achieve.
"We are actively looking at what might be an effective new" request for funding, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz told The Detroit News. He recently took over the department from Steven Chu who put the program on hold during the second half of the Obama administration's first term.
The ATVM project came under intense criticism from Republicans, which notably included 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who referred to the companies that had been funded as "losers."
There have been problems, including Vehicle Production Group which defaulted on a $50 million loan in June, and Fisker Automotive, a California-based plug-in hybrid maker that is not expected to pay back most of the $193 million it received from the loan program.
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