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Battery Loans Start Pulsing With Power

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On: Mon, Jan 31, 2011 at 10:32AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Battery Loans Start Pulsing With Power

The next time someone tells you that our government is spending too much of our money, remind them that sometimes they actually are pretty slow at spending our money. Such is the case with around sixteen billion in loan money that was set aside in 2008. Here we are in 2011 and those loans are now finally getting doled out. What are the loans for? Think batteries. These loans are brought to automakers courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy under their Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program and all the car makers are lining up for their piece of the pie.

GM and Chrysler are first in line for the remaining funds. They had to wait their turn because one of the conditions of the loan was that the automaker applying had to be “financially stable.” That’s something that GM and Chrysler can just now claim to be. Ford, Nissan, Fisker, and Tesla split up 8.5 billion in loans back in 2009.

Jonathan Silver, executive director of the Department of Energy's loan programs office, has been riding herd on program and has had his hands full especially when complaints from lawmakers and automakers that are coming at him about the slow pace of handing out the funds.

“Our goal is to finance as much of the significant technology as possible,” Silver said. “The recipients are likely to include niche automakers with targeted markets as well as large car companies. The upcoming Energy awards will be announced on a continuing basis through midyear,” Silver said. To date, there have been 130 applications for the loans and Mr. Silver is all too aware of the delay issues.

“We are aware that there remains frustration in the Congress and in the private sector that the programs move too slowly,” Silver told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last September. “While we have made significant improvements, we continue to work to simplify the process and complete deals more quickly.”

On GM’s loan application, they are sure to point out that they began rolling the Chevy Volt off the assembly lines back in November. They hope to sell at least 10,000 of these electric hybrids in 2011. That’s got to count for something, right? Ford is spending their loan dough to buff up the fuel efficiency on their Focus, Escape, Taurus, F-150, and other models. By building a better battery, cars can become more fuel efficient and thereby get more miles to the gallon, so the theory goes. Meanwhile, Nissan is going on a loan spending spree to bolster its electric Leaf built in Smyrna, Tennessee.


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