Electric Cars Advance in U.S. as Tesla Motors Repays Loan Early

Cleaner vehicles are part of the federal government’s comprehensive plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, build “clean” industries and reduce the nation’s dependence on imported oil, the Department of Energy says.

White House National Security Advisor Tom Donilon said in April that U.S. energy-related greenhouse gas emissions have fallen to 1994 levels “due in large part to our success over the past four years in doubling electricity from renewables, switching from coal to natural gas in power generation and improving energy efficiency.”

The early repayment of a $465-million loan from the Department of Energy to Tesla Motors, a manufacturer of electric cars, is good news for the future of America’s growing electric vehicle industry, according to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

The loan to Tesla was one of many the department has made to tackle climate change and promote increased use of alternatives to fossil fuels. Many of the nation’s largest and most innovative energy and transportation projects are supported by the Department of Energy’s loan programs, including:

• Several of the world’s largest solar generation facilities and thermal energy storage systems (Ivanpah Solar in California’s Mojave Desert, Agua Caliente Solar in Arizona, Desert Sunlight in California, Abengoa Solana Solar in Arizona, and Solar Reserve Tonopah in Nevada).

• One of the world’s largest wind farms, Shepherds Flat in Oregon.

• The first two all-electric vehicle manufacturing facilities in the United States (Tesla and Nissan).

• The first nuclear power plant to be built in the U.S. in the last 30 years, Plant Vogtle in Georgia.

In the auto industry specifically, the Energy Department said, these investments have made an enormous impact. In June 2009, for example, the department offered more than $8 billion in conditional loan commitments to three companies — Ford, Nissan and Tesla — to help retool, refurbish, and reopen American auto plants to produce the cars of the future. The results have been impressive:

• The department provided a $5.9 billion loan to Ford Motor Company to upgrade and modernize 13 factories across six states and to introduce new technologies to raise the fuel efficiency of more than a dozen popular vehicles, representing approximately 2 million new vehicles annually.

• In Smyrna, Tennessee, the first advanced battery packs produced in the United States are coming off the production line of Nissan North America’s production plant, the Energy Department said. These advanced batteries are powering U.S.-made all electric Nissan LEAF cars. The construction of the state-of-the-art battery facility was made possible through a $1.4 billion loan from the Department of Energy.

Tesla’s $465 million loan enabled it to reopen a shuttered auto manufacturing plant in Fremont, California, and to produce battery packs, electric motors and other powertrain components. Tesla vehicles have won wide acclaim, including the 2013 Car of the Year from both Motor Trend and Automotive Magazine, and Consumer Reports recently rated Tesla’s Model S as tied for the best car ever rated.

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