Everyone's heard of the extended-range Chevrolet Volt and all-electric Nissan Leaf, and many know about Tesla Motors, maker of that lightning-quick electric roadster. But there's another California startup with an all-electric car close to production that most of the public is unaware of: Coda.
The car itself is simply called the Coda sedan. It's based on a heavily modified two-generations-ago Mitsubishi Lancer, and, honestly, it doesn't look like much from the outside. Certainly it made few waves at the LA Auto Show last week. There was just one on display and it was locked, so I couldn't even get a close look at the interior, let alone a test drive. (Read: "LA Auto Show: EV newcomers Wheego and Coda provide alternatives to Nissan Leaf.")
However, the Coda has some noteworthy attributes that I gleaned from the company's former CEO and now senior strategic advisor, Kevin Czinger. For example, it's largely sourced from China, but something like 40 percent of it, including the electric motor and the single-speed direct drive transmission, are made in the United States. The battery is sourced from China through a joint venture with Lishen Power Battery, but a battery plant in Ohio is planned. The car comes from China sub-assembled; final assembly takes place in California.
The battery is substantial: a 700-lb, 33.8- kWh pack stowed under the floor. By comparison, the Leaf's battery is rated at 24 kWh. Coda claims the car will have a real-world range of 100 miles -- even in less-than-ideal situations. The electric motor produces the equivalent of 134 hp. Top speed is a claimed 80 mph.
Charge time through a 220-volt outlet is said to take 5.5 to 6 hours. When asked whether the battery is compatible with a swap-and-go arrangement such as that envisioned by Better Place, Czinger said, "It could be made to be." He also touted the thermal management system of the battery and mentioned that Ken Baker, a former GM engineer who ran the EV1 project, was involved in the design.
The Coda sedan will be first rolled out in California sometime in spring 2011. The $45,000 price seems extremely ambitious (the Leaf, for instance, is priced around $33,000), and Czinger concedes it will be a challenge. A $7,500 federal income tax credit and a $5,000 state-of-California rebate bring the cost down to $32,500 for Californians who wish to go out on a limb, albeit a green one. A national roll out will follow but may not use traditional dealerships. In the meantime, potential buyers would be able rent a Coda from Enterprise. Czinger wants to position the company as an all-electric brand that sells a real five-passenger sedan that can even serve and/or appeal to soccer moms.
Safety may be a concern for many people looking at an unknown car from an unknown start-up. Czinger promises good crash-test results if it's ever tested by the government and insurance industry. Of course, it meets all federal safety standards, including having electronic stability control. We look forward to experiencing the Coda for ourselves and once we do so, we'll share our impressions.