VPG & the DOE

Nowadays, there is a proliferation of new car companies.

Nowadays, there is a proliferation of new car companies. Many of them—think Tesla, think Fisker—are making sexy, sporty alternatively powered (electric in these two cases) vehicles.

One might think that if it is a car company you’ve never heard of (and isn’t from China), in all likelihood it produces electric vehicles (EVs) or hybrids.

But not VPG.

No, we hadn’t heard of it, either.

It stands for “Vehicle Production Group.”

And it has recently received a $50-million conditional loan commitment with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) under the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing loan program.

Yet it isn’t making an EV or hybrid.

In fact, it is producing a vehicle with a Ford 4.6-liter V8.

So why is it part of the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing loan program—which has loaned money to Tesla and Fisker (among others)?

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Because VPG is going to ramp up production of its MV-1, which is a purpose-designed and built car that is for people in wheelchairs. And it is going to produce the cars with the capability of running on gasoline—which is not advanced tech—or compressed natural gas—which is considered to be advanced.

David Schembri, CEO of VPG: “With this conditional commitment, the Department of Energy has demonstrated its confidence in our program and the impact that it will have in transforming a significant portion of U.S. light-duty fleets to clean-burning, natural gas vehicles. The MV-1 will help to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil and substantially reduce light-duty fleet emissions and costs, while at the same time dramatically increasing the quality of life for millions of Americans with physical disabilities.”

VPG is headquartered in Miami, an unlikely place for a car company. But the manufacturing of the MV-1 will be performed in the AM General plant in Mishawaka, Indiana, the place where most of the GM HUMMERs used to be built, and where the military HUMVEE continues to be built. Ramp up of production is scheduled for Q1 of 2011.