Fisker Scores $529M DOE Loan to Start "Project Nina"

fiskerkarmaJust as Kleiner Perkins investor and former Oracle president Ray Lane let slip last week, electric vehicle startup Fisker has some big news about how it will build a $39,000 plug-in hybrid vehicle. This morning, the Department of Energy announced that it has awarded Fisker a $528.7 million loan that will help it both build its first plug-in car, the Fisker Karma, and start working on “Project Nina,” a plug-in hybrid car that it plans to build in the United States and manufacture at a volume of 75,000 to 100,000 per year starting in 2012.

While the DOE announcement didn’t include the price of Project Nina, Fisker has repeatedly said that it plans to build a plug-in vehicle that’s cheaper and higher-volume than its $87,900 Fisker Karma, on the condition that it receives a DOE loan. Looks like the plan is on track. The DOE called the funding the fourth “conditional loan” (the company needs to meet some conditions before it becomes official) from the $25 billion Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program.

Back in June, Fisker competitor Tesla also received $465 million in loans from the same ATVM program. At the same time, the DOE gave most of a total of $8 billion in loan commitments to large car companies, including a whopping $5.9 billion to help Ford retool factories and $1.6 billion to Nissan North America to retool its Smyrna, Tenn., factory to build electric cars and batteries. These DOE loans have been delayed for awhile, but Energy Secretary Steven Chu made it clear earlier this year that he wanted these committed ASAP.

Fisker plans to use $169.3 million of its loan to work with U.S. suppliers to produce the more expensive Fisker Karma, which will be developed at its Michigan and California offices, but then will be assembled “overseas.” The other $359.36 million will go toward producing Fisker’s Project Nina, which will be entirely manufactured in the United States.

Fisker, which was founded in 2007 and has raised about $100 million in venture-capital funding, plans to become profitable in 2011.