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T. Boone Pickens-Backed Auto Startup Gets Rejected by the DOE


(Possible pieces of the secretive V-Vehicle, taken from a promo video)

Poor T. Boone Pickens. The oil mogul had such dreams of green grandeur–the world’s biggest wind farm!–but his biggest ideas are proving too tough to work out. Earlier this week, V-Vehicle, a stealthy auto startup backed by Pickens and Kleiner Perkins, announced that the Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program rejected its request for $321.1 million in federal loans. The rejection means that V-Vehicle’s future is shaky, to say the least.

Before the announcement, V-Vehicle claimed that it would employ over 1,400 people directly at its planned Monroe, Louisiana plant. A recent economic impact analysis by Louisiana State University (LSU) estimated that this would create an additional 1,800 indirect jobs, making the company one of the top 30 economic-driver firms in the state. But that was then. Now V-Vehicle owes Louisiana $6.2 million in tax dollars as part of a $133 million performance-based incentive package announced in June 2009.

So what, exactly, was V-Vehicle working on? We’re not exactly sure. The company has remained tight-lipped, but here’s what we know: The fuel-efficient, gas-powered vehicle’s design was led by former Mazda designer Tom Motano. V-Vehicle also claimed that the car could get over 40 mpg and would be priced 30% to 40% below “comparably equipped” cars. Beyond that, details are hazy. Before the federal cash was denied, V-Vehicle planned to have a car on sale in 2011. And now? We’ll have to wait and see.

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