In a huge step for Tesla Motors and the Department of Energy loan program, Tesla Motors announced Wednesday that it has repaid the $465 million loan issued in January 2012 almost a decade ahead of schedule. Fuelled by Tesla’s first quarterly profits and fantastic press reviews for its Model S, Tesla’s stock has been rising fast, allowing the electric car manufacturer to repay the DOE loan through the sale of additional stock and a supplementary $100 million investment from found Elon Musk.
Musk issued a statement thanking the Department of Energy, members of Congress, their staffs, and the American taxpayers for having allowed the creation of the DOE loan program. Despite a series of high-profile failures, including the now-bankrupt solar panel maker Solyndra, the Department of Energy said Wednesday that the losses of its loan program represent only 2% of the $34 billion portfolio, and less than 10% of the $10 billion loss reserve Congress set aside in advance.
Tesla was able to repay the loan in large part due to its skyrocketing stock price this past month. Investors and critics are raving about the all-electric plug-in Tesla Model S that outsold competing models from Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi by a healthy margin, and received the second ever 99/100 score from Consumer Reports, who called the Model S the best car it had ever tested. Consumer Reports’ head of auto testing called the car’s performance “off the charts,” and only regretted the recharging time: "If it could recharge in any gas station in three minutes, this car would score about 110.”
But Tesla plans to take care of that next week when it plans to unveil its nationwide network of 100 supercharger stations to be installed by 2015, where a full charge will take an hour but be totally free, and possibly announces its plans for a battery-swapping scheme that would make recharging the car faster than filling a gas tank.
One of the few remaining obstacles facing Tesla is a bill recently passed by the North Carolina Senate barring sellers from "using a computer or other communications facilities, hardware, or equipment" to sell or lease a car to anyone in the state, effectively outlawing Tesla’s internet-based sales model.
In the Department of Energy loan program’s first Cinderella story, Tesla has exceeded everyone’s expectations since its founding in 2003. As the manufacturer begins to tackle the main issue of battery longevity, their success is likely to continue.