White House to bung electric car industry $4.5bn in loans

Before you buy that Tesla though…

The White House has said the US federal government will underwrite loans totaling $4.5bn to expand the use of electric cars.

But before you go rushing to Elon Musk asking for a set of Falcon doors, note that it is only for building out charging infrastructure.

The Department of Energy has expanded its existing loan program to cover electric vehicle (EV) charging facilities – including both the hardware and software.

The loan guarantee is intended to support efforts to make it possible to charge electric cars all over the country in the same way that it's currently extremely easy to top up gas-powered cars at millions of stations.

"Loan guarantees can be an important tool to commercialize innovative technologies, because these projects may be unable to obtain full commercial financing due to the perceived risks associated with technology that has never been deployed at commercial scale in the United States," the official announcement notes.

The loan program has a cap of $4.5bn and is the main plank in a package of ideas that the White House is calling "Guiding Principles to Promote Electric Vehicles and Charging Infrastructure."

The federal government has already been in talks with a wide range of car companies, utility companies and different states' transportation departments in what it calls an "unprecedented electric vehicle coalition." Notable among them: BMW, Ford, GM, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan and Tesla. Unsurprisingly, most of the country's electric power companies are also on board.

Among other plans to greatly expand the charging infrastructure are:

  • A guide [PDF] to making sense of the federal loan program and other existing incentives (for example, you can claim 30 per cent of the cost of a new EV charging station as a tax credit, up to $30,000).
  • Expanding the number of special lanes for electric vehicles.
  • A joint procurement program for government agencies to acquire electric vehicles cheaper.
  • An effort to find better battery technology.
  • A coordinated national plan for charging stations.
  • An "EV hackathon" later this year that will bring together coders and engineers in an effort to develop new approaches to electric vehicles.

The Obama Administration set a target of one million electric cars on the roads by the end of 2015, but managed only 40 per cent of that. This new plan hopes to give that effort a boost by tackling one of the biggest barriers that people have in purchasing an electric vehicle – fear that they will run out of charge in the middle of nowhere. ®

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