Elio Motors Inc., which proposes making an enclosed, three-wheeled vehicle in northwest Louisiana, said Thursday its application for a $185 million U.S. Department of Energy loan has passed the first of three phases of review.

Elio said its application was deemed “substantially complete” and moves to the due diligence phase.

“While this is just one step and there is a long way to go, we are pleased that DOE has moved expeditiously thus far on our loan application,” said Paul Elio, CEO of Elio Motors.

Elio said DOE loan would accelerate the company’s plans to begin production in 2015.

Elio plans to make its $6,800 vehicles in 1.5 million square feet of a 4.1 million-square-foot former General Motors manufacturing facility in Shreveport, employing up to1,500 workers.

The company is in the process of working with its manufacturing partner, Comau, to sell surplus GM manufacturing equipment that Elio acquired along with the plant. Those sales will help raise additional funds toward the production of the new vehicle.