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With federal loans blocked, Fisker halts work on Project Nina, lays off 66 workers

Fisker Automotive's bumpy 2011 appears to have given way to an even rockier 2012. A little more than a month after recalling 239 of its Karma plug-ins, Fisker has now stopped working on its second electric vehicle, following the US government's decision to suspend its federal loans. The manufacturer confirmed the news in an email yesterday, adding that a total of 66 workers in Delaware and California have been laid off, as a result. In 2009, the Department of Energy provided Fisker with $528.7 million in federal loans, but according to spokesman Roger Ormisher, access to those funds have been blocked since May. The money was supposed to be used to launch the Karma and Fisker's second, US-manufactured EV, known as the Nina. The Karma began rolling out to market in July, but did so well behind schedule, spurring the DOE to suspend its loan.

"Our loan guarantees have strict conditions in place to protect taxpayers," Department spokesman Damien LaVera explained in an email to Bloomberg. "The department only allows the loan to be disbursed as the company meets certain milestones and demonstrates results." Thus far, Fisker has drawn on only $193 million of federal funds and is looking to renegotiate the terms of the loan, in the hopes of accessing the remaining $336 million. The DOE, however, is still under intense scrutiny because of September's Solyndra debacle, so it's difficult to say what a renegotiated deal would look like. The manufacturer, for its part, says it's taking no risks, telling GigaOM that it "continues to pursue alternative funding sources." In the meantime, it'll continue to focus on the Karma for 2012, and hopes to revive Project Nina at a later date.