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Issa-Supported Aptera Closes Without Receiving U.S. Vehicle Loan

U.S. Representative Darrell Issa
U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa at the U.S. Capitol to attend a vote before the House went on recess for the Thanksgiving break, on November 18, 2011 in Washington, DC. Photographer: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Aptera Motors Inc., an electric-car company that had Republican Representative Darrell Issa’s support for a U.S. loan, said it’s shutting down because it couldn’t get private financing.

Aptera, based in Carlsbad, California, said in an e-mailed statement yesterday that it had received a “conditional commitment letter” for $150 million from the federal Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan program based on raising matching funds, which it was unable to do.

Issa of California wrote a letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu, received Jan. 14, 2010, supporting an Energy Department loan for Aptera. The loan “will greatly assist a leading developer of electric vehicles in my district,” he said.

Issa is among Republicans who have criticized the Obama administration for issuing a $535 million loan guarantee to Solyndra LLC, a solar-panel maker that filed for bankruptcy protection in September.

“With officials playing the role of venture capitalist and picking favorites like Solyndra, success for companies like Aptera that have to compete against others with government sponsorship can be especially difficult,” Issa said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. “Aptera never received the taxpayer backing they sought, and perhaps the only good news” is that it failed “before federal funds were put at risk.”

Damien LaVera, an Energy Department spokesman, said in an e-mail yesterday that “Aptera did not receive a conditional commitment for a loan from the department.” He declined to comment further on Aptera’s loan application.

Ford, Nissan

The advanced-vehicle fund, one of three such programs the Energy Department administered for alternative-energy projects, has $4 billion remaining after giving loan guarantees to companies including Ford Motor Co., Nissan Motor Co. and Tesla Motors Inc. Chrysler Group LLC has asked for $3.5 billion.

Aptera, which never produced a car, had planned to make a five-passenger sedan priced at less than $30,000 that would run on electric power. Electric cars made by General Motors Co. and Nissan sell for about $41,000 and $33,000 before a $7,500 U.S. tax credit.

“We were so optimistic that the company would move forward that we were in discussions to reactivate a mothballed automotive plant in Moraine, Ohio,” Paul Wilbur, Aptera’s chief executive officer, said in the statement.

The company had talked with the labor union that operated the plant to discuss hiring 1,400 workers who had lost their jobs, Wilbur said. GM produced Chevrolet, GMC and Saab sport-utility vehicles at the Moraine plant until closing it in 2008.

Issa also signed a June 22, 2009, letter to Chu promoting battery maker Quallion LLC, based in Sylmar, California. An Energy Department clean-energy grant might create more than 2,300 jobs nationwide, according to the letter, which was signed by Issa and 16 members of California’s congressional delegation.

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