The US Department of Energy has awarded electric carmaker Fisker Automotive a US$528.7m loan to develop more affordable US-made plug-in hybrids.

At least 5,000 direct and indirect US jobs would be created or saved, an estimated 821m gallons of petrol saved and 8m tons of CO2 offset by sales of the hybrids to the end of 2016, California-based Fisker said in a statement.

Most of the low-interest funds will go towards 'Project Nina', Fisker's next model which will be priced from $39,900 after tax credits. The rest will help finish development of the luxury Karma, priced from $87,900, which will begin reaching customers next year.

Global sales of the cheaper Nina are forecast at over 100,000 units annually and a "significant percentage" will be exported.

"This conditional loan represents a significant step in America's future," said CEO Henrik Fisker. "With it, Fisker Automotive can rapidly develop affordable clean cars."

The funds are part of the energy department's $25bn advanced technologies vehicle manufacturing loan programe, approved by Congress last November to help promote the development of energy efficient, advanced technology vehicles.

Ford, Nissan Motor and electric car start-up Tesla Motors have also been offered loans while General Motors and Chrysler have each applied for billions in aid and expect to hear soon about their requests.

The Obama administration envisions 1m plug-in hybrids on the road by 2015.