Tesla Repays DOE Loan, Way Early

Once again, a U.S. Department of Energy loan to a cleantech company just isn’t going as planned. But instead of leaving critics of the DOE loan program howling, this turn of events might actually shut them up.

Tesla Motors said on Tuesday that it was on the verge of paying off – lock, stock and barrel – the nearly half-billion-dollar loan it got to from the U.S. government three years ago to manufacture electric cars. And on Wednesday it happened, according to new Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

tesla loan repayment

image via Tesla Motors

“When you’re talking about cutting-edge clean energy technologies, not every investment will succeed – but today’s repayment is the latest indication that the Energy Department’s portfolio of more than 30 loans is delivering big results for the American economy while costing far less than anticipated,” Moniz said in a statement.

In case you haven’t heard, the audacious electric car-making scheme fronted by Elon Musk is doing well, earning rave reviews and selling its latest model about as fast as it can make them.

Back in February, Musk said the company would pay off the loan early – like, by 2017, instead of 2022. But last week Tesla announced a plan to sell 2.7 million new shares and raise $450 million in a bond sale, with proceeds going to make good with the U.S. Treasury on the $465 million Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing loan that was finalized in January 2010.

On Monday, Musk, in a tweet, said that repayment would take precedence over other planned activities and would happen soon: “Given govt loan repayment this week (prob Wed), Supercharger update will be next week. Work continuing independent of announcement.” On Tuesday, a company representative told EarthTechling that “the plan” was indeed to pay off the loan on Wednesday, and Moniz confirmed late in the afternoon that the repayment had happened.

In addition to getting an exciting new manufacturing enterprise in California in return for the loan, there might be a little bit extra in this for U.S. taxpayers: According to Bloomberg, “Tesla completed drawing down its loan funds as of Aug. 31, 2012, and has already made payments to the Energy Department of at least $25 million, based on company filings. As a result, taxpayers may see at least a $12 million profit.”

This story has been updated since its original publication.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

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