Best Electric Cars and Plug-in Hybrids for 2014

Best Electric Cars and Plug-in Hybrids for 2014

Nissan Leaf Update: We’ve linked to the most recent tests or news of these cars, including some 2014 models.

Nissan LEAF is an all-electric car with 70 to 100 mile range. 50,000 have been delivered globally. Nissan delivers great value with the new 2013 price starting at $28,980. Drive it at 30 mph and you might get 140 miles; drive it at 70 mph running the air conditioner, 60 miles. LEAF Test drive. This 5-door, 5-seat, hatchback has the right size and range for many who drive under 100 miles daily, or for households with more than one car. The LEAF is the first electric car to earn five stars from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. The Leaf has had its price dropped since introduction and dealers offer some attractive lease programs. Chevy VOLT

Chevrolet Volt was awarded Car of the Year by Motor Trend and Automobile Magazine and awarded Green Car of the Year by Green Car Journal. General Motors is the current plug-in hybrid leader with the Chevrolet Volt,which has 38 to 40 miles of electric range and total range of 380 to 400 miles by engaging a small gasoline engine that is coupled with an electric generator. GM has a complete Voltec Propulsion System roadmap, which envisions added offerings of pure battery-electric and diesel plug-in hybrids. Our Volt Test Drive showed that this is plug-in hybrid is sportier to drive than regular hybrids and a great 4-door, 4-seat sedan for those who want to minimize fill-ups and avoid range anxiety. The Volt has dropped its retail pricing and typically offers very generous leases. GM has augmented the Volt with a sister model, the much more expensive Cadillac ELR, in 2014 and also introduced the diminutive, but powerful pure electric Chevy Spark EV.   ford focus electric

Ford Focus Electric starts at $39,200 with double the charge speed of the LEAF. You can go online and configure your car, select a dealer and place your order. Although Nissan and Chevrolet have been getting most of the electric car media attention, both automakers are worried about Ford who will give customers the widest choice of electric and plug-in hybrid cars and crossovers. Ford has also partnered with SunPower to offer an affordable rooftop solar system that will allow Focus Electric owners and other electric car drivers to “Drive Green for Life,” and charge with solar. Ford Focus Electric Test Drive

Ford C-Max EnergiFord C-MAX Energi, an exciting new crossover with more room than a small SUV. The 5-seat C-MAX Energi offers 550 miles of overall driving range using the lithium battery, electric motor, and gasoline engine – more than any other plug-in. Ford offers the passenger room and cargo space of the Prius V. Its 20 miles of electric range beats the Prius Plug-in, but falls short of the Chevrolet Volt. The C-MAX Energi starts at $33,745.  Ford C-MAX Energi   2013 Ford Fusion

Ford Fusion Energi SE is a beautiful 5-seat sedan with more safety and telematics features than any other car on this list. Drive this plug-in hybrid for 20 miles of electric range, then a small efficient gasoline engine extends your range by hundreds of miles. The Fusion Energi is a strong contender since its a midsize sedan with a good reputation for handling and reliability. According to EPA testing, the Fusion gets a combined 58 MPGe (combining its electric and gas modes). Models start at $34,700. Toyota Prius Plugin

Toyota Prius Plug-in starts at $32,000. The Prius Plug-in cost about $8,000 less than the Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in hybrid with a 40-mile electric range in comparison to the Prius PHEV’s 15-mile. The Prius Plug-in costs about $8,500 more than the classic Prius Liftback, but the difference narrows to  $6,000 after Federal Tax Credit.  In California, Toyota Motor Corp also offers the all-electric SUV, the RAV4 EV. Toyota Prius Plug-in Test Drive and Review vs. the classic Liftback. Honda Fit EV

 

Honda Fit EV. 2013 Fit EV can be purchased for $36,200 or leased at a rate competitive with other EVs on the market. The new compact 5-door 5-passenger hatchback electric car uses Blue Energy lithium-ion battery pack for a 100-mile all-electric range. The new 2014 Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid is a premium midsized sedan, also available as a hybrid, which we tested.   Tesla S Sedan

Tesla Model S Sedan has delivered its first 20,000 Model S electric cars and is still going strong, now charging into overseas markets. This luxury all-electric sedan that starts at $69,900 and has an optional battery pack for $20,000 more that gives the car a 265-mile range. Tesla will compete against these less expensive competitors with a luxury interior, electronics like a 17-inch display, 5 + 2 passenger capacity, switchable battery option, and up to triple the electric range of competitors. Tesla is now taking reservations for 2015 delivery of the new Model X SUV with all-wheel drive from two electric motors, breathtaking styling including winged doors, and the same roomy seating capacity as the Model S. Tesla Model S and Model X  

 

Smart Fortwo Electric is driven daily by thousands of Car2Go car sharing members in San Diego and Portland and cities around the world. The new Smart Electric can be purchased for only $25,000 ($17,500 after federal tax credit). The 2-seat Smart Electric has a range of about 70 miles, which is great for dense urban areas, where its small footprint also helps with parking. The new third-generation Smart Electric has a more powerful  55kW EM-motive motor and 17.6kWh ACCUmotive lithium battery.

BMW i8 Electric Sports Coupe BMW is now selling the all-electric i3 (which also comes in a range-extended version) cars. The i3 builds on the company’s experience with the ActiveE (which featured the i3 powertrain in a 1-Series body) in San Francisco’s DriveNow car sharing program and with lease customers. In 2014, you can order the BMW i8 plug-in hybrid sports coupe that dazzled movie audiences in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. BMW will extend range with innovative super-strong, yet lightweight materials including an aluminum frame and carbon fiber reinforced plastic, or CFRP for short. The i3 body consists of two independent modules: the Drive Module consists of an aluminum chassis and the powertrain with the lithium-ion battery, the performance electronics and a compact but powerful electric motor.   Mitsubishi i

 

Mitsubishi i (official name with small “i”) is bigger and with more zip for the U.S. market compared with its Japanese-market predecessor. This pure-electric city car is selling starting at $29,125. Mitsubishi will challenge the Nissan LEAF, Ford Focus Electric, and Honda Fit Electric. This fun-to-drive 4-seat 5 door, will have a wheel base 5 inches wider for the U.S. market, but the micro-compact will still be able to get those precious city parking spaces that no other car can take except the Smart. The more powerful U.S. version will have an electric range of 62 miles (EPA adjusted) with a 16kWh lithium battery. Mitsubishi Electric Test Drive

Fiat division of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles surprised everyone with the 500e, an all-electric version of the Fiat 500 that is in the

2013 Fiat 500e, fiat, 500e, electric car

2013 Fiat 500e

process of reintroducing the Italian automaker to America. The car surprised everyone because it was so good! While being presented to the media as a compliance car (i.e., the company would only build enough of them to meet California’s zero emission vehicle mandate and only sell them where credits toward that mandate would count), the early returns (including ours) lauded the car as exactly what an electric car should be – full of fun and projecting a personality commensurate with the significance of the vehicle for the environment.  

EV Forecasts and Renewable Energy

Electric car sales will triple in the U.S. each year from 20,000 in 2011 to 60,000 in 2012 to 180,000 in 2013. This report is about freeway-speed U.S. available all-electric and plug-in hybrid light-duty vehicles. Accenture forecasts 1.5 million electric vehicles in the United States by 2015. Over 10 million electric vehicles are possible by 2020, especially if oil prices rise as battery prices fall. Single electric utilities have scenarios for charging over one million electric vehicles in their own service area by 2020. With renewable energy investment required of utilities in 30 states, these utilities are most interested in night time charging of electric vehicles with wind, geothermal, and hydropower. Utilities are also implementing smart grids and incentives for off-peak charging. More than 100 large and small competitors are fighting for share of the U.S. electric car and truck market. Some may be struggle to get significant share due to time delays and cost of safety and other regulatory approvals, delays in funding, or unpleasant surprises from a supplier. It’s a tough business. Even Tesla had to add 700 pounds and two years to get the first Roadsters in customers’ hands. We’ve been impressed with the performance of the VW e-Golfs that we’ve driven over the past few years and it is due to arrive late in 2014. Mercedes is in the process of preparing a B-Class electric for sale in the U.S. Electric cars with range extended by fuel cells continue to make progress. Hyundai is building 1,000 Tucson fuel cell vehicles and they are on sale in Southern California as of mid-2014. Mercedes has put 200 of the new F-Cell B-Class on global streets; Toyota putting 100 of its 400-mile range FCHV into fleet applications and has shown a concept of what the 2015 model will look like when it goes on sale; Honda also has shown its 2015 model in concept form and other auto companies are also moving forward with fuel cells. China could have several EV models delivered to U.S. customers in the near future from BYD or possibly other companies, but Coda’s experience trying to sell an electric version of a dated, poor quality Chinese model was not encouraging.

New Ford Electric Car and Hybrid Car Choices

New Ford Electric Car and Hybrid Car Choices

ford focus electricby John Addison

 

With gasoline prices over $4 per gallon in many states, Ford is rolling out a variety of exciting hybrid cars and electric cars.

In April, consumers will start buying the new Ford Focus Electric. Yesterday, I rode in this beautiful compact hatchback. I silently cruised down the streets unless you cranked on the impressive sound system. Drop the 60/40 split backseat and you could put a couple of mountain bikes in the back or a work project or home improvement tools and supplies. With the backseat up, you can seat 5 adults.

Ford is pricing the Focus Electric at $39,200, about $4,000 more than the Nissan LEAF. The 23kW Ford battery pack, with LG Chem lithium-ion cells, charges at twice the speed of the LEAF and has about 10 percent more range. By the end of the year however, the 2013 LEAF will charge at the same rate. Unlike the Focus, the LEAF includes an ECO mode, which may equalize the ranges. The LEAF also includes a DC Fast Charge port while Ford waits for a future SAE Level 3 standard.

Although you might gulp at paying $39,200, savings include a $7,500 federal tax credit, incentives in many states, and saving $1,000 or much more on gasoline. These tax breaks seem unfair to many, but keep in mind that our gasoline is half the cost of Europe due to U.S. subsidies and breaks for the oil industry.

Ford increasingly believes in customer choice. The gasoline sipping Ford Focus SE gets 40 mpg highway and is not even a hybrid. It starts at about $18,300.

Ford C-MAX Energi and Hybrids = Crossover SUVs with Great Mileage

Ford C-MaxIn the fall of 2012, Ford brings unparalleled fuel economy to the 5-seat crossover SUV segment. The C-MAX plug-in hybrid will allow you to drive the first 20 to 30 miles on a garage electric charge before engaging a fuel-efficient engine. It may rate over 100 mpg. The C-MAX lives up to its name. It maximizes the cargo and passenger space that can be fit on the popular “C” sized vehicle platform. Like the Focus, the C-MAX is a 5-seater. Drop the back seat and you have much more cargo space than the Focus. Price has not been announced. Our guess is that it will be under $40,000.

For customers that want to pay less up-front, Ford will also offer the C-MAX as a hybrid. It will be as roomy as the C-MAX Energi, but never get plugged-in. With a lithium-battery pack it will have excellent fuel-economy. The C-MAX Hybrid will compete head-on with the new Toyota Prius V, which gets 42 mpg combined and has 40 percent more cargo than the best selling Prius Liftback.

Ford Intends to Take Midsized Market Share from Toyota

When the 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid goes on sale at the end of this year, it will offer the best fuel economy of any midsized sedan. It is targeted to deliver 46 mpg highway, 44 city, and 46 combined, beating the Toyota Camry Hybrid with its famous Synergy Hybrid Drive System. I have been very impressed with test drives of both hybrids, which are roomy, quiet, and smooth as silk to drive. The Camry uses NiMH batteries; the Fusion Hybrid uses lithium-ion.

Outdoing Toyota, Ford will also offer the Fusion Energi, a plug-in version that will deliver the first 20 to 25 miles of driving on a garage charge before engaging the gasoline engine. Pricing has not been announced. Ford will also emphasize customer choice with the Fusion available with a variety of non-hybrid configurations.

Ford’s Strategy to Lower the Cost of Hybrid and Electric Cars

Ford built 2.5 million “C” platform vehicles last year with many common components. The Focus Electric and C-MAX offerings will be built with over a dozen other vehicles on the same assembly line in Wayne, Michigan. Ford controls cost with flexible manufacturing, where it can quickly adjust to market demand.

Ford’s team of more than 1,000 engineers working on hybrid and electrification programs – including Fusion Hybrid and Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid – has grown so fast that the company today is announcing the conversion of its 285,000-square-foot Advanced Engineering Center in Dearborn, Mich., to electrified vehicle development. The new jobs are part of Ford’s plans to add more than 12,000 hourly and salaried jobs by 2015 in the United States. The company also has announced it is tripling production capacity of its hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles in the U.S. next year compared with 2011.

Over 80 percent of the Fusion Hybrid and Energi components will be the same, allowing Ford to achieve more cost efficiencies. With the C-MAX, we will see that Ford powersplit hybrids and blended plug-in hybrids share about 85 percent of the same components including electric traction motor, generator, inverters, DC/DC converters, electric accessories, transmission, and engine. Both the C-MAX Energi and C-MAX Hybrid models, with a common chassis, will be built alongside the all-new 2012 Ford Focus and Focus Electric at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Mich.

Three years ago, lithium battery packs cost about $1,000 per kilowatt. Now the cost is closer to $500. By the end of the decade, costs may only be $250 per kilowatt. Ford makes all of its lithium-packs and works with several lithium cell manufacturers to get the best price and battery chemistries separately optimized for battery-electric, plug-in hybrid and hybrid. Ford’s pack and volume strategy will lower costs of hybrid and electric cars.

Ford will Sell 100,000 Hybrids and EVs with Lithium-Batteries

Lithium batteries are everywhere. They are in your mobile phones, iPads, notebook computers, game players, music players, and a lot more. Soon lithium batteries will be in millions of hybrid and electric cars.

As electric and hybrid car competition intensifies, Nissan, GM, Toyota, and Ford are in a race to sell the most vehicles with lithium batteries. I have driven cars from each of these automakers that use lithium batteries. The cars performed beautifully and delivered great fuel economy.

Toyota is bringing to market three vehicles with lithium batteries – The Prius PHV, the RAV4 EV, and the Scion IQ EV. These three give Toyota a shot at being the first automaker to put 100,000 vehicles on the road with lithium batteries. Toyota has over 3 million hybrids on the road with NiMH batteries. Why fight success? Toyota will be careful in switching to lithium-ion. Economics, reduced vehicle weight, and more interior room will eventually make the switch compelling.

Over 10,000 Nissan LEAFs have been delivered, putting Nissan ahead of the competition in the electric car race. Nissan will deliver up to 50,000 LEAFs globally this year. In 2013, a new plant opens in Tennessee with the ultimate capacity of 150,000 LEAFs per year plus 200,000 lithium battery packs per year.

General Motors and LG Group are jointly designing and engineering future electric vehicles, expanding a relationship built on LG’s work as the battery cell supplier for the Chevrolet Volt and Opel Ampera extended-range EVs. In 2012, GM will deliver up to 60,000 Volts and Amperas with LG Chem advanced lithium battery cells.

Ford will only use lithium batteries in all Ford hybrids starting in calendar year 2012 when it announces the new Focus using the Ford global C platform. Ford is currently second only to Toyota in global hybrid sales. Ford may be the first car maker to sell 100,000 cars annually that includes lithium batteries. When I lasted interviewed Nancy Gioia, Director Ford Global Electrification, she said that Ford has a 2020 goal of 10 to 25 percent of its vehicle sales including lithium batteries. Her best guess is that 70% would be hybrids, 20 to 25% plug-in hybrids, and 5 to 10% battery-electric. Everything from technology innovation to oil prices will affect the future mix.

100,000 Electric Car Sales in U.S. in 2012

100,000 Electric Car Sales in U.S. in 2012

SAP SV Forum Electric Cars ChargingBy John Addison (updated 1/27/12; original 1/20/12)

Gartner, the largest technology market research firm, presented a scenario for 100,000 electric car sales in 2012 in the United States. Yesterday, I took in the presentation at the SV Forum and then talked with Thilo Koslowski, Vice President of Gartner’s Automotive and Vehicle Practice. He acknowledged that 100,000 is quite a jump from the 18,000 sold in 2011 which included 9,674 Nissan LEAFs, 7,671 Chevrolet Volts, and 655 other plug-in cars.

A week after this article was originally published, Mr. Koslowski sent a clarifying email, ” The 100,000 unit number isn’t our formal forecast.  The number is what you arrive at based on manufacturers’ plans/expectations for 2012.  I believe this number is rather ambitious and actual new EV and plug-in vehicle sales for 2012 will probably be around 40,000 to 60,000 vehicles.”

In 2011, Japan’s earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown affected everyone’s supply chain. The recession left most cautious about spending $30,000, $40,000, or more for unproven vehicles. Although some 280,000-gasoline cars catch fire in the U.S. annually, fires in some Volt test crashes lead to safety concerns. It was only mid-year that the Nissan LEAF received the top five-star safety rating from NHTSA.

Clean Fleet Report considers 100,000 to be a good forecast for U.S. EV sales in 2012. Nissan is manufacturing 50,000 LEAFs this year, then greatly expanding production next year with a new Tennessee plant. The Renault-Nissan Alliance is betting billions on electric vehicles and lithium batteries. GM has expanded manufacturing for global sales of 65,000 electric cars. At the SV Forum, Byron Shaw, who manages the Advanced Technology Office for GM in Silicon Valley, discussed GM sales of two plug-in hybrids in 2012 – the Chevrolet Volt, which he drives and the Opel Ampera in Europe and GM 2012 sales of a pure battery-electric Chevrolet Spark.. The new Cadillac ELR plug-in hybrid has also been on display at auto shows.

Electric Cars with Lowest Prices

Electric city cars will also fuel sales in 2012. The Mitsubishi I has a starting price of only $29,120 – $6,000 less than the LEAF. Toyota will enter the electric city car competition with the Scion IQ Electric. The Honda Fit Electric is no for sale. Car rental and car sharing providers are adding over 1,000 electric cars to their fleet. Car2Go already has 300 Smart Electric Drive Cars on the streets of San Diego in daily use.

Ford’s customer choice strategy will also attract more mainstream car buyers. The new Ford Fusion is available as an efficient EcoBoost engine or as a hybrid with better mileage than any midsized sedan or as a plug-in hybrid that allows many trips to use zero gasoline. The Ford Focus is also available as a pure battery-electric. The new crossover SUV Ford C-MAX is also available as a plug-in hybrid.

Toyota knows how to sell millions of hybrids. The new Prius Plug-in Hybrid looks and drives just like the best selling Prius. The new Toyota RAV4 EV is a pure battery-electric that looks like the popular RAV4 SUV. In 2012 and 2013, Toyota leverage its hybrid brand into plug-in cars.

One hundred thousand electric car sales in 2012 is less than one percent of the 13.4 million U.S. vehicle sales forecasted by Gartner.

It is difficult to forecast which will have greater sales, pure battery electric or plug-in hybrid. With early enthusiasts, the battery-electric LEAF is the winner. The SV Forum was hosted at SAP that has 16 charge points and at least 20 employees EV drivers at its Silicon Valley office. LEAFs outnumbered Volts in visitor parking for the forum. The typical U.S. household has two cars. My wife and I share a Nissan LEAF and a hybrid. In 8 months, range has never been an issue. If one of us is driving over 60 miles we take the hybrid. As we progress from early enthusiasts to early adopters, however, the plug-in hybrid may win by eliminating range anxiety. Most compacts and city cars may be electric; most larger cars, crossovers, and SUVs may be plug-in hybrid.

By the end of the decade, according to several at the conference, the fuel cell may prove to be the better way to extend the range of an electric vehicle. They see the most fuel cell vehicle progress in Japan and Germany. GM, Toyota, Honda, Mercedes and others continue fuel cell vehicle development. Hyundai is building 2,000 Tuscon ix FCEV.

Challenges for 1,000,000 Electric Cars by 2015

According to a new report from Pike Research, around 410,000 PEVs will be sold between 2011 and 2015 in the United States, and cumulative U.S. sales will not reach the 1 million mark until 2018. Nevertheless, PEV sales are expected to ramp up strongly in the second half of this decade.  Global PEV sales are expected to surpass 1 million vehicles per year in 2017 and, by 2020, worldwide sales volumes will reach 1.7 million units annually forecasts Pike.

Manufactures will certainly have the capacity to build a million electric cars by 2015. Renault-Nissan and GM are investing billions in plants in the U.S., Europe and Asia. Battery giants like LG Chem, Panasonic, and Samsung are also investing billions. The real question is will U.S. buyers have purchased or leased a million battery-electric and plug-in hybrids by the end of 2015.

Gartner’s Koslowski sees two big challenges. First, can the automakers create brands and marketing campaigns that make these vehicles compelling buys. Second, can automakers and battery giants continue to drive down the cost of lithium batteries or storage alternatives? Most buyers will not pay a premium for a hybrid or electric. Then again, millions each year buy premium cars, SUVs and trucks.  When drivers want a vehicle, millions convince themselves that one over $30K is right for them.

Thilo Koslowski sees 5 to 8 percent of all vehicles being battery-powered by 2020 and 20 to 30 percent by 2030. Urban markets are most promising, but many city dwellers do not have access to garages for charging. The political and media influence of oil giants could slow adoption in some countries. High oil prices could speed adoption. Since Europe and Asia have less appetite to subsidize gasoline prices, they could soon be bigger markets for EVs.

By the end of the decade, millions of electric cars are likely to be on the road. Exciting customer experiences, falling cost of ownership, and the price of alternatives will determine how many millions.

Think Small – Electric City Cars

Think Small – Electric City Cars

VW Bug 1970By John Addison (1/4/12)

Volkswagen’s “Think Small” is ranked as the most successful campaign in advertising history according to AdAge.com. The ad campaign ranks ahead of iconic Nike’s “Just do it,” Clairol’s “Does she … or doesn’t she,” and Apple’s “1984.” VW’s agency DDB launched the “Think Small” campaign in 1959. The VW Beetle soared in popularity at the same time that GM, Ford and Chrysler cars were expanding, adding weight and growing fins.

Today, buyers looking for good value and fuel economy find subcompacts appealing and hatchback versions flexible in handling four passengers and cargo space. Popular models include Hyundai Accent, Nissan Versa, Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, and Chevrolet Sonic. The new Prius “c” hybrid with an expected 60+ miles per gallon is likely to shake-up this entire category.

In cities where paid parking can cost $20, $30, or even $50 per day, microcompact city cars have loyal fans for maneuverability, fun driving, and squeezing in free parking spaces. Drivers love their MiniCoopers, Fiat 500s, Smart fortwos, and still love their VW Bugs.

Electric city cars are a great match for small car lovers. Most city drivers need far less than the range of smaller electric cars which may be limited to 50 miles on highways but double that cruising city streets and benefitting from regenerative braking. The new electric cars are fun, hip, and sized for crowded cities.

The electric city car sales leader is the Mitsubishi i. It can be purchased for $29,125, which is about $6,000 less than the larger Nissan LEAF. The Mitsubishi I only requires 16kW of lithium batteries; the LEAF, 24KW. Smaller lighter electric cars go farther with a kilowatt and therefore require less energy storage.

Even smaller than the Mitsubishi I is the Mercedes Smart fortwo electric drive. Car2go has 300 of these being used daily in its San Diego car sharing program.  This innovative program allows members to get in the two-seat EV at one location, park at a different location, and walk away. The Smart ED makes it easy for members to find parking places.

With most of our planet’s 7 billion people now living in urban density, automakers see a big future for city electric cars. I recently saw several at the LA Auto Show. Over 10 small electric cars will be on display at the upcoming North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Mitsubishi is taking electric city car orders and Smart is putting its electric fortwo in car sharing and fleet programs. They better move fast, because the competition is bringing many small electric cars to the U.S. in the next two years. Honda Fit EV will sales will soon start at a rather steep $36,200. GM will follow the success of its Chevrolet Volt with a less expensive, pure electric Spark EV. There is a Fiat 500 EV that may start sales next year.

Next to the U.S. may be an Infinity sport subcompact. Toyota Motor Corporation will go beyond its hybrid car leadership and bring us an exciting Scion IQ Electric.

The automaker that started “Think Small” is developing several electric cars including the Volkswagen E-up.

An electric car does not need to be a microcompact to get great range. It can be a hot sports car like the Tesla Roadster with its 240-mile range, or the Audi e-tron Spyder diesel plug-in hybrid, or the BMW i8 that Tom Cruise drives in Mission Impossible 4.

The Renault-Nissan Alliance is developing a portfolio of electric cars that go beyond its successful 5-seat Nissan LEAF to include smaller urban mobility EV and larger electric vans.

For many that live in cities or university towns, an electric city car will be all that they want, especially with the availability of car sharing, transit and rail for other needs. Households with two and more cars will consider a small electric car as one of their cars to save money, have fun, and win the parking space battle.

CODA Electric Car with 40% More Range than Nissan LEAF

CODA Electric Car with 40% More Range than Nissan LEAF

By John Addison (11/18/11)

CODA New Price of $39,995 with 50% Larger Lithium Battery

My test drive of the new CODA showed that this new electric car is similar in handling and performance to the Nissan LEAF and Ford Focus Electric which I have also driven. CODA has at least 40 percent more electric range than the LEAF and Focus Electric which each have 24 kW lithium batteries in comparison to CODA’s 36 kW lithium iron phosphate battery. Battery size isn’t everything, but it’s a lot when driving an electric car 80 miles on the freeway and wondering if you will get home. Even with Nissan and Ford’s Eco modes, slightly lighter weight, and advanced engineering, CODA is likely to offer 40 percent more electric range.

For the past six months, my wife and I have been delighted with driving our LEAF. We have experienced 120 mile range on quiet streets going 30 mph, but on the freeway at 65, we starting worrying after driving 60 miles. For longer trips, we use our second car which is a hybrid. With the CODA we could have made some trips that were not possible or practical with the LEAF. CODA gives their car a target range of 150 miles per electric car in comparison to 100 for the LEAF or Focus Electric.

These 3 electric cars support the Level 2 standard for charging. CODA and Ford charge at 6.6 kW/h, double the speed of the 2012 Nissan LEAF. This speed rarely matters at home, but when using a public charger it can make the difference between working at a nearby Starbucks for one hour instead of two. Since there are over 10,000 public chargers installed in the U.S., I’ve had great personal luck finding and using public chargers but double the charge speed would be great. The 2013 Nissan LEAF will match the Ford and CODA 6.6 kW/h.

Unlike the CODA, the current LEAF also includes a DC Fast Charge which offers an 80 percent charge in 26 minutes, or a lot less if you’re battery is only partially depleted. Nissan’s Mark Perry tells me that there are over 500 DC Fast Chargers planned for installation, but only a few in states like Oregon currently operational.

CODA is a four-door compact sedan that comfortably holds 5 people. It no more calls attention to itself than a Camry or Civic. With 14 cubic feet, it has more trunk space than competitors such as the LEAF, Volt, and Focus Electric, and much more than the Mitsubishi i. The competition however is five-door hatchbacks. Lower their backseats and plenty of cargo space is available when only traveling with two or three people.

My test drive car CODA costs about $41,400 because it included air conditioning. The interior is nice but not as nicely appointed as competition from Nissan, Ford, Chevrolet and others. It doesn’t have all the infotainment and telematics, but it probably has all the features of your current sedan. Like other cars with the instant torque of an electric motor, I had no problem accelerating around slower cars and maneuvering through hectic LA traffic. The CODA is certainly worth a test drive if you are considering an electric car and want more range.

CODA Corporate Overview

A car buyer wants some reassurances that a car company will be around as long as their 8 year lithium battery warranty. CODA’s past struggles with multiple changes of the CEO, difficulty to secure financing, and years of delay in manufacturing will cause some to buy from Nissan, Ford, and others.

CODA tells me that they are starting manufacturing. Then again, they told me that two years ago. A few cars are planed for delivery to their investors by year end. In 2012 Q1 deliveries to fleets like Enterprise Car Rental and SDG&E are expected. By mid-year consumer deliveries should be underway.

CODA Holdings is a privately held American company that designs, manufactures and sells all electric vehicles and battery systems. CODA’s initial vehicle, the CODA Sedan, a four-door, five-passenger all-electric vehicle with a range of up to 150 miles per charge.

Phil Murtaugh, CEO of CODA Holdings, comes from GM with extensive automotive executive experience. CODA headquarters/design/engineering center are in Los Angeles, California for its 225 employees.

Investors are made up of large institutional investors and high net worth individuals including former U.S. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson. CODA has global joint-venture with Lishen Power Battery, a global battery cell supplier to Samsung, Motorola and Apple, for the design, manufacture and sale of battery systems called Lishen CODA Energy Systems. Together, CODA and Lishen developed a lithium iron phosphate battery cell for transportation and utility applications including renewable energy (wind and solar power) storage.

To reduce the capital intensive nature of the automotive industry, CODA controls all core vehicle design and engineering work internally while partnering with a global network of established manufacturers and suppliers. In total, CODA has more than thirty suppliers and partners on four continents. CODA’s supply chain partners include BorgWarner, UQM Technologies, Energy CS, Continental Automotive Systems, Porsche Design Studios, Delphi, Celgard, Novolyte Technologies, OMITEC, Lear and HELLA.

CODA Specifications

Dimensions

Vehicle Range………..up to 150 miles1

Top Speed……………. 85 mph (Electronically Limited)

Charge Time………….6 hours from 220V (30AMP EVSE)2

Occupancy…………….. 5 passenger

Cell Chemistry………..Lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4)

Configuration……….. 728 cells (104s7p)

Energy………………….. 36 kWh

Nominal Voltage……. 333V

Wheelbase…………….102.4 inches

Track-Front……………. 58.2 inches

Track-Rear……………… 58.3 inches

Overall Length………. 176.4 inches

Overall Width…………67.2 inches

Overall Height………. 58.0 inches

Headroom

(front/rear)…………….. 35.5/31.7 inches

Shoulder Room

(front/rear)…………….. 53.0/52.4 inches

Legroom

(front/rear)………………41.3/30.3 inches

Trunk Space……………14.1cubic feet

Passenger Space…….82 cubic feet

Curb Weight…………..3,670 lbs

Motor Power ………… 100 kW/134 hp (peak)

Motor Torque…………300 Nm/221 lb-ft

Transmission…………..Single speed gear reduction

Drive Ratio……………..6.54:1

Suspension……………. Four-wheel independent with front

MacPherson struts & rear shocks

Steering………………… Rack-and-pinion with

electric power steering

Air Conditioning…….2.0 kW cabin cooling

DC:DC Converter….. 2.2 kW @13 V output

Charger…………………. 6.6 kW/240VAC input

or 1.3 kW/110 VAC input (back-up charging)

Wheels………………….. 17-inch 5-spoke wheels with 205/45/RF17 all-season tires

Brakes…………………… Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS)

Traction Control…….. Electronic Stability Control (ESC)

Airbags…………………. 6 airbag system (2 advanced frontal, 2 seat-mounted side & 2 side curtain), front seat occupant detection system

Seat Belts……………….3-point, pre-tensioned, load limited (front seats)

LATCH System………..Child Seat Restraints

Limited Vehicle………. 3 years/36,000 miles

Limited Battery……….. 8 years/100,000 miles