WASHINGTONThe U.S. Department of Energy has approved funding assistance for Ford, Nissan, and Tesla Motors to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles. The loan is part of the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program (ATVMLP), a $25-billion program authorized by Congress under Section 136 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

The ATVMLP is designed to accelerate the development of vehicles and technologies that increase U.S. energy independence, create cleaner means of transportation, and stimulate the American economy. Companies receiving the loans go through a rigorous financial and technical qualification process and must put collateral in place before approval.

"This green partnership between Ford and the U.S. government will help accelerate the development of advanced technologies for even better fuel efficiency and emissions," said Ford President/CEO Allan Mulally in a company statement.

Mulally said the automaker plans invest nearly $14 billion in advanced technology vehicles in the next seven years. "Our partnership with the Department of Energy also will help retool our U.S. plants more quickly to produce fuel efficient vehicles and help meet the new, rigorous fuel-economy requirements," he added.

Nissan North America, Inc. (NNA) has been conditionally approved by the U.S. Department of Energy for a $1.6 billion loan to modify its Smyrna, Tenn., manufacturing plant to produce zero-emissions vehicles and state-of-the-art lithium-ion battery packs to power them, according to a statement by the automaker. The loan will help Nissan produce electric vehicles, which emit no gases and are powered only by electricity.

"This loan is an investment in America. It will help us put high-quality, affordable zero-emissions vehicles on our roads," said Dominique Thormann, senior vice president, Administration and Finance for NNA. "This project will expand our Smyrna plant and that's great economic news."

Tesla Motors has received approval for about $465 million in low-interest loans from the DOE to accelerate the production of affordable, fuel-efficient electric vehicles. The company will use $365 million for production engineering and assembly of the Model S, an all-electric, seven-passenger sedan that travels up to 300 miles per charge.  

Tesla will use $100 million for a powertrain manufacturing plant. The facility will supply all-electric powertrain solutions to other automakers, greatly accelerating the availability of mass-market EVs. The new facility will employ about 650 people.  

"Tesla will use the ATVM loan precisely the way that Congress intended -- as the capital needed to build sustainable transport," said Tesla CEO and Product Architect Elon Musk.