Tesla Model S - rear three-quarter view, black

Tesla Chief Elon Musk says his company will repay its US Department of Energy loans within five years, Automotive News reports. That’s way, way ahead of the 10-year deadline the electric-vehicle maker was originally given to pay back the $465-million loan it got from the feds.

Musk says better-than-expected results are responsible for cutting the planned payback time in half, something that had been talked about late last year. Earlier this month, Musk said the first-quarter of 2013 will be Tesla’s first profitable one. The company, which recently ramped up to its full production capacity of 400 Model S sedans a week, delivered about 2,400 of them during the fourth quarter, making it the fourth most-popular US plug-in car in that time frame.

Tesla will evidently speed up its repayment with no thanks to the The New York Times, which caused an uproar when it reported that the Model S’ single-charge range was far less than advertised. Musk disputed the report, which was then called into question by other publications and the Times’ own public editor. Musk estimated that the original article cut Tesla’s stock value by as much as $100 million and may have swayed “a few hundred” into canceling orders for their new electric car.

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By Danny King