Teaser for Louisiana's new VVC plant
2011 VVC sketches
2011 VVC sketches
In June of last year, the Department of Energy announced $8 billion of low-interest loans for automakers in the first round of funding from its $25 billion Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program. Of that total, $5.9 billion went to Ford, $1.6 billion went to Nissan, and $465 million went to Tesla. (Since then, Fisker has also received $529 million.) The goal of the loan program is to encourage the development of high-tech, green vehicles, including battery electric cars, hybrids, and those using exceptionally efficient combustion engines.
Around the same time, we mentioned the launch of a new auto company in north Louisiana: V-Vehicle, which is working to rehab a production facility in Ouachita Parish (just west of Monroe) for the production of high-efficiency cars. V-Vehicle has since applied for a $320 million slice of the DOE's pie -- $250 million for manufacturing and $70 for engineering -- and now comes word that the DOE is beginning its formal evaluation of the company.
According to The News Star, "The U.S. Department of Energy has notified the Ouachita Parish Police Jury that it is preparing an environmental assessment of the V-Vehicle project as part of its review of a federal loan to the company." For V-Vehicles' sake, we hope the DOE's exploratory process is on the fast track: the company has raised about $100 million in private investments, but it needs to secure a total of $350 million by March 1, or else it will forfeit an $87 million grant package from state and local governments. V-Vehicle has the option of filing for an extension of that deadline, but company spokesman Joe Fisher said, "[W]e feel confident that we will get a positive decision on our application [from the DOE] before March 1."
In the meantime, Ouachita Parish officials are moving forward on the assumption that V-Vehicle will be approved for the DOE grant, and that the parish will be responsible for its portion of the $87 million pledge. V-Vehicle is also moving forward with plans to restore 46 acres of wetlands in neighboring Madison Parish, which are affected by the company's facility expansion. With people like bajillionaire T. Boone Pickens behind V-Vehicle, you wouldn't think the company would be strapped for cash, but this deadline rush may be a nail-biter.