US revives loan program to support hydrogen fuel and electric vehiclesSeptember 6, 2013
Loan program could support the development of vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells and batteries
In early 2012, the U.S. Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program was put on hold by the federal government. The move was spurred by political tensions that began causing significant turbulence for the program during the 2012 presidential campaign. The program was meant to support the development of clean transportation, focusing on conventional electric vehicles as well as those powered by hydrogen fuel. Presidential candidates had begun using the program as a political tool before the Obama administration decided to put it on hold. Now, the federal government has reinstated the loan program.
Ford, Nissan, and Tesla make progress with federal backing
The program is backed by $25 billion in federal funds, which were issued in full in the fall of 2008. Since then, only $8 billion has been loaned to automakers, including Ford, Nissan, and Tesla Motors. To date, Tesla Motors is the only automaker that has repaid its loan entirely, with Ford and Nissan opting to pay their loans at a slow, but steady pace. Much of the funds issued by the loan program have helped these automakers develop a new generation of vehicles that run on lithium-ion batteries and hydrogen fuel cells. The money has also aided in the research and development of these technologies in order to make them more efficient and less expensive.
Loan program used as political tool in the past
In 2012, questions arose concerning whether automakers were able to deliver on the promises they made in order to attain loans from the program. While Ford, Nissan, and Tesla Motors have been showing promising progress, Fisker, another loan recipient, was pushed into the political limelight when it ceased the production of its plug-in hybrid. The Vehicle Production Group, which also received money from the federal program, also failed to deliver any results and much of the blame fell on the federal government, which spurred the suspension of the loan program.
Government urges automakers to seek out funding through program
Now that the loan program has been reinstated, the federal government is encouraging automakers to submit applications for funding. Approximately $15 billion is still available through the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program and this money could help automakers make major breakthroughs in their use of hydrogen fuel cells and other such technologies.