The Government's Green Car Loans Are BACK

The Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program, i.e., the Green Car loan program created solely by the OBUMMER Bush administration, went on hiatus in 2011 after the recipients of its credit largesse started dropping like flies. But good news, for America, because it's back. Huzzah.

You might remember the ATVM loan program, originally approved by Congress in November 2008, as the program that extended billions of dollars in government credit to companies like Fisker and VPG (which failed) and Ford and Tesla (which did not fail). But when the program was suspended for re-evaluation almost three years ago, it still had $25 billion in the bank to disburse, and that's the kind of cash that plenty of people want access to.

(Though we should remember the ATVM program consists of loans, not just free money being handed out. So, yeah. Loans, to companies, not grants, to people.)

United States Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz is set to announce ATVM's reboot today at the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA) Legislative Summit, along with a few changes to the oft-criticized program.

And those changes are now going to create fantastic, whiz-bang, ingenious ideas!

Just kidding. The program is not being entirely restructured for anti-gravity devices and time machines, but it is being re-structured in a way that should help its direct recipients, manufacturers, slightly happier, mainly when it comes to paperwork (via the Department of Energy):

    • Clarified Eligibility For Component Suppliers: LPO has clarified that a broad range of automotive component technologies are eligible for the program. These fuel-efficient technologies may include, but are not limited to, advanced engines and powertrains, light-weighting materials, advanced electronics, and fuel-efficient tires.
    • Improved Responsiveness to Applicants: LPO has updated its program description to describe the application process, eligibility requirements, and the program's mission and goals. LPO also offers pre-application consultations with potential applicants to promote an open and transparent exchange of information about the program, its eligibility requirements, and loan terms.
    • Revised the Application Process: We recognize the need for timely processing of applications and a clear understanding of the types of information required during due diligence. We launched an online application portal (https://apply.loanprograms.energy.gov/) to facilitate and improve the ease of the application process.

    So yeah. The program's back, the Obama administration is trying to make it a bit more streamlined, but you still might not see any major changes as the end-user of the products these companies make.

    The Obama administration has gotten a lot of flack for the program, mostly for the way it chose the recipients and administered the loans, even when companies were obviously not getting off the ground. But for the sake of the country and the automotive industry as a whole, I hope that it works out. Because risky loan programs for the sake of technology and progress are one of the main things that government is necessary for, because the free markets won't provide it.

    The government was willing and able to provide major loans to Tesla when other banks wouldn't, and when the company seemed like another weird folly from another weird South African named Elon Musk. And today, it's got a market capitalization of more than 27 billion dollars.

    Sure, some things will fail, but that's the price of progress. And if there's anything we learned from the collapsed recipients of Fisker and VPG, it's that nothing is quite dead yet.