A  wheelchair-accessible van maker that received $50 million through the same Energy Department loan program that funded Fisker Automotive has shut its doors and laid off its employees.

The DOE froze the Vehicle Production Group’s loan after the company’s finances fell below the required level, former CEO John Walsh told USA Today. About 100 employees were laid off when VPG closed without fanfare in February, but the company has not filed for bankruptcy.

VPG used the advanced technology vehicles manufacturing loan to equip accessible vans with engines powered by compressed natural gas. Production of the MV-1 vans was supposed to create at least 900 jobs, and VPG expected to produce about 22,650 of the vans per year, according to the DOE’s November 2010 loan announcement.

Among the company’s private backers was entrepreneur T. Boone Pickens, who supports tax credits for production of natural gas-powered vehicles like VPG’s.

The company’s problem wasn’t a shortage of orders for its MV-1 vans, but a lack of dealers that are mobility specialists, Walsh said. His company had about 2,300 vehicles on order when it shut down production six months ago in preparation for a new model.

Despite missing its financial benchmarks, VPG spent the federal loan money wisely, Walsh told USA Today. He said he is optimistic the loan can still be repayed if the company is sold.

Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., introduced a bill in March that would offer tax credits for companies manufacturing natural gas-powered vehicles and to individuals or businesses buying such vehicles.

Tax credit programs like the New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions Act aims to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil by switching to natural gas, a more viable alternative energy source than struggling technologies like renewable fuels.

H/T Washington Free Beacon