By Ben Geman - 05/09/13 03:00 PM EDT
More broadly, several companies backed by a related DOE green-energy loan guarantee program have struggled, most notably Solyndra.
An Energy Department spokeswoman called VPG’s shuttering “unfortunate” but argued that, in the main, the two DOE loan programs have been a success.
“While this is unfortunate news about a very promising company, it is the exception rather than the rule for our portfolio of more than 30 projects that are supporting tens of thousands of American jobs and making our country more competitive,” spokeswoman Aoife McCarthy said.
“This program was always intended to involve taking some risks by supporting innovative and cutting edge technologies that hadn’t been tried on commercial scale before — giving them a chance to prove themselves in the marketplace so that similar projects could subsequently be funded by the private sector,” she said.
The Energy Department's auto and green-energy loan programs were created under bipartisan bills that passed in 2007 and 2005.
But the loans have all been granted under the Obama administration, and GOP critics allege that projects weren't properly vetted or managed.
The DOE recouped $5 million from VPG in April.
VPG shuttered in late February, according to press accounts. The vans themselves were built in Indiana.
According to the department, the vans were an attractive option for municipal and corporate fleet vehicles.
The company built and sold more than 2,000 of them and had a backlog of more than 2,500 orders.
But state and local government budget constraints left the company with “liquidity” woes, the DOE said.