IRVINE, CA --- Fisker Automotive said it has been approved by the Department of Energy for a conditional loan of more than half a billion dollars to create affordable, fuel-efficient plug-in hybrid electric cars. 

A majority of the $528.7 million in low-interest funds will go toward Project NINA, which will see the design, engineering and assembly of Fisker Automotive's next-generation plug-in hybrids, which will start at about $39,900 after tax credits. The remainder will help finalize development of the Fisker Karma, a plug-in hybrid that will enable the company to develop lower cost models. 

Fisker Automotive said it expects to create or save at least 5,000 U.S. jobs among auto suppliers and thousands more to manufacture a plug-in hybrid in the U.S. 

The name for Project NINA was inspired by the ship belonging to explorer Christopher Columbus. 

By 2012, Fisker Automotive is expected to launch a family-oriented plug-in hybrid. Global sales are predicted to exceed 100,000 units annually, Fisker said. A significant percentage will be exported. 

Energy Secretary Steven Chu called the loan "another critical step in making sure we are positioned to compete for the clean-energy jobs of the future."