This sounds familiar: An alternative-fuel luxury sports car startup promises to get affordable green cars into production for the mass market — if the Department of Energy comes through with a loan. Back in November, the startup was Tesla Motors: CEO Elon Musk said Tesla could set up manufacturing for batteries and the delayed Model S sedan in “a matter of months” with about $400 million in low-interest loans. (Musk has revealed a more exact figure, $350 million, for the sedan project since then.) Now we’re hearing a similar tune from Fisker Automotive.
Henrik Fisker, founder and CEO of the Irvine, Calif.-based company, spoke with Reuters at the 79th International Motor Show in Geneva on Wednesday about a plan to refurbish a factory in the U.S. and develop a lower-cost, higher-volume plug-in hybrid car than its $87,900 Fisker Karma if DOE loans come through.
Fisker did not specify how much money the company has requested, but did offer a timeline for the project. According to the Reuters report:
“If we get the DOE loan we will start the project this year,” he said. “It could be in the market in as little as 26 months from when we start.”
As we noted last fall, when Tesla described its mass-market vehicle plans, more than a few hurdles stand between applicants and DOE loans. Interim rules established by the DOE favor projects involving manufacturing facilities that are at least 20 years old (a possible leg up for Fisker, given its scheme to refurbish a factory) and require that companies demonstrate financial viability for the term of the loan. Fisker got a vote of confidence from the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins this week in the form of $3 million to help secure an exclusive supply of battery technology. We’ll wait and see if the DOE follows suit.