Coda Battery-Electric Sedan Review

Coda Battery-Electric Sedan Review

CodaBy Tom Bartley (3/8/12)

I drove the Coda battery-electric car and talked to the Coda representatives extensively during the San Diego auto show. The Coda headquarters are in Los Angeles, the body and many components are Chinese, and their assembly is done in Benicia, California, less than an hour from Tesla’s new manufacturing site. I suspect that Coda is under capitalized, but they seem to be attracting enough money to keep going. Coda is offering the cars through existing dealers, having recently signed up Marvin K. Brown in San Diego’s Mission Valley. With the size of the battery pack at 31kWh, I guessed that the cost of the car was probably in the $40k and up range. I was surprised to learn that the price is in the $39,995 before tax credits and state grants.  At the LA Auto Show, Coda stated that the sedan had a 36kWh battery.

Coda had two test-drive cars at the auto show. The car I drove had great acceleration from the UQM 100kW motor even with a driver and 3 passengers.  It didn’t feel like there was any control system governing it to hold back.  The 333 VDC LiFeP Chinese battery, with 4 parallel module strings and 30 to 40 amp hours per cell, should provide 100 comfortable miles down to 10% SOC (State Of Charge). The 150-mile range in the brochure will rarely be achieved, but it’s there to compare with the range quoted by other EV manufacturers. The car had a nice navigation display and an adequate instrumentation dash board. There is a 2.2kW DC-DC converter for the standard 12 VDC hotel loads. I didn’t find out anything about the motor control inverter or battery cooling and management, but they have an active 2kW HVAC for passenger comfort.

The car had one unique feature in their braking regeneration operation. The regen kicked in about 1.5 seconds after releasing the accelerator and it seemed like a little more was added upon applying the brake pedal. Unlike Toyota’s hard, medium, and soft regen settings per driver choice, the Coda has only the one setting with the time delay activation.

The Coda people transported the car with an enclosed trailer that included a gasoline powered genset to recharge the cars. It seems that they couldn’t rely on an available public charging station. (They were probably all taken by Car2go battery electric Smart Car rentals. Car2go now gives EV owners a way to move the Smart Cars away from a charging station.)

Coda uses a J 1772 standard plug-in vehicle interface and two parallel 3.3kW chargers to provide a 6.6kW level two charge that refuels at better than 10 miles of range per 30 minutes of charge time. Coda has partnered with GE to offer a J 1772 interface that plugs into a standard 220VAC, 30Amp power outlet for $1000. No special wiring is required.

Coda has chosen to ride the EV wave rather than concentrate on any niche market.  In spite of the very positive reactions of the drivers from the test drive, the Coda sedan may have a tough time competing with all the other plugins coming out in the same relative price range.  I suggested that they look into selling CARB EV credits; it is likely that they have had internal discussions on the subject. For the big automotive manufacturers with over 100,000 cars sold per year in California, the penalty is over $5,000 per missing credit.

Top 10 Electric Cars

CODA – Pricey Electric Car without Premium Features

CODA – Pricey Electric Car without Premium Features

Coda Santa Monica ExpoBy John Addison (10/5/10)

I settled for a test ride in the CODA, not a test drive. CODA was taking people for rides at the Santa Monica Alt-Car Expo, but not letting them drive, in contrast to hundreds of potential buyers test-driving the Nissan LEAF.

Sorry, but CODA did not appear to be worth $44,900 in contrast with the more sexy, more fully appointed Nissan LEAF priced at only $32,780. Both pure battery-electric cars are targeting 100-mile ranges. CODA with 33.8 kWh lithium battery pack is likely to have a better real world range than Nissan with 24 kWh battery pack.  You can also charge the 2011 CODA twice as fast at 6.6 kW/h, instead of 3.3 kW/h with the 2011 LEAF. With the 2012 LEAF both will have the same charging speed.

Riding in the CODA felt like being in my Civic Hybrid, a nice but an ordinary 4-door 5-seat sedan. OK features, but nothing special. The ride felt like a conventional sedan, but nothing special. The legroom was a little more cramped than in the LEAF and Chevy Volt. With CODA you get an off-the-shelf chassis and assembled drive system; with Nissan you get a car built from the ground-up to be a unique battery-electric, right down to the ECO mode and driver telematics. At least CODA is using respected drive system suppliers such as Borg Warner, UQM electric motors, Energy CS, Delphi DC-DC, and Lear on board charger.

CODA currently has batteries made in China in a joint venture with Lishen Power Battery. The CODA sedan is sub-assembled in Harbin, China, and shipped to the US for final assembly in California. CODA is trying to secure DOE loans for at least $400 million to build a battery and vehicle assembly plant in Columbus, Ohio, for production starting 2014. The company’s pitch is that this could create 2,000 jobs in the U.S., although these might be at the expense of 2,000 Nissan LEAF battery and assembly jobs in Tennessee, or 2,000 Ford electric car and battery jobs in Michigan. Competition will get intense. The good news is that more lithium batteries and electric cars will be built somewhere in the U.S.

VCs and private investors such as former Secretary of Treasury Hank Paulson are making $100 million bet on CODA getting fed funding and having an IPO. Tesla’s market cap of $2 billion has encouraged investors. But without fed money the limited vehicle warrant of 3 years or 36,000 miles might be safe, but customers may have doubts about the company being there for the 8-year or 100,000 mile battery warranty.

Buyers who can afford to pay $45K for an electric car with extra range are more likely to step-up to the Tesla Model S at $57,000 and get more range, upgradeability, premium features, and a certain wow factor. If car drivers want extended range, and balk at $45K, then they may go with a plug-in hybrid.

CODA needs to weigh its strategy options. It’s pricing demonstrates that China partners will not help it win the cost battle with companies that make cars by the millions such as Nissan, Ford, and soon Toyota and Honda. The range issue may get CODA a few thousand buyers, if it can deliver much better range than the LEAF, Ford Focus Electric, and other EVs coming to market at savings of $12,000. CODA needs to be more distinctive for consumers, or to deliver custom vehicles for fleets like taxis and emergency responders, to justify the big price premium. There will be multiple winners in the electric car market. The race is on.

CODA Specs:

  • Vehicle range 90 to 120 miles
  • Top Speed 80 mph (electronically limited)
  • Charge Time 6 hours from 220V (30AMP) 2
  • Occupancy 5 passenger
  • Limited Vehicle Warranty 3 years / 36,000 miles
  • Limited Battery Warranty 8 years / 100,000 miles
  • Battery Chemistry Lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4)
  • Battery Configuration 728 cells (104s7p)
  • Battery Energy 33.8 kWh
  • Nominal Battery Voltage 333V
  • Motor Power 100 kW/134 hp
  • Motor Torque 300 Nm /221 lb-ft
  • Single gear transmission
  • Drive Ratio 6.54:1
  • DC:DC Converter 2.2 kW @ 13V output
  • Charger 6.6 kW / 240VAC input or 1.3 kW / 110 VAC input (back-up charging)
  • Air Conditioning 2.0 kW cabin cooling
  • Steering Four-wheel independent with front and rear MacPherson struts
  • Wheels 17-inch 5-spoke wheels with 205/45/RF17 tires
  • Rack-and-pinion with electric power steering
  • Turning Radius 17.5 ft (curb)/18.6 ft (wall)
  • Wheelbase 102.3 inches
  • Headroom (front/rear) 38.7/36.6 inches
  • Shoulder Room (front/rear) 53.0/52.0 inches
  • Legroom (front/rear) 42.3/31.7 inches
  • Overall Length 176.1 inches
  • Trunk Space 20 cubic ft
  • Overall Width 68.5 inches
  • Passenger space 82 cubic ft
  • Overall Height 57.6 inches
  • Curb Weight 3,682 lbs
  • Entertainment Standard features = satellite-ready AM/FM/XM radio with MP3, iPod,® iPhone® and USB connectivity
  • 8-inch color touch-screen featuring turn-by-turn navigation with available real-time weather and traffic updates
  • GreenScreenTM system that monitors driving efficiency
  • Bluetooth® hands-free phone system
  • vehicle security system