$45K Coda Electric Sedan Will Beat Volt, Tesla, Etc, To Market

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Coda electric sedan

Coda electric sedan

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Watch out, Volt. Beware, Tesla. Step aside, Nissan EV. There's a new cowboy in town. And his name is ... Coda.

If this quiet California startup has its way, it will launch the first all-electric sedan for sale in the US in autumn 2010. That's a few months before the much-touted 2011 Chevrolet Volt arrives at dealers.

Coda's new, fully electric four-door, five-passenger mid-size sedan will retail for $45,000, before tax credits that could cut the price to $35,000. And it will be the first highway-legal Chinese-built car sold in the US.

Until this month, Coda Automotive was a part of Miles Electric Vehicles, which has been selling low-speed electric fleet vehicles since 2005. The Santa Monica, California, company largely stays below the radar, but it has lofty ambitions.

Coda is the new name for the most ambitious Miles project, which aims to create and import a highway-capable car from China. The renaming creates a new brand with no connection to the slow, small, plastic EVs sold by Miles.

Electric range: 90 to 120 miles

The five-passenger Coda sedan will have a range of 90 to 120 miles, depending on the driver's duty cycle--which covers 94 percent of daily vehicle trips in the US. The company quotes a top speed above 80 miles per hour, and 0-60 times of 8.5 seconds.

Coda claims a full recharge will take six hours using 220-Volt power, the same kind used by electric stoves and clothes driers. That means the onboard charger can add 40 miles of range (which covers 78 percent of US trips) in just two hours.

Given the high sticker price, Coda focuses on the much lower operating costs. On average, driving 100 miles on electric power will run the owner about $3--versus $17 in a 20-mpg car.

Including savings in mechanical maintenance (and fewer brake pads, due to regenerative braking!), Coda claims an owner will save $2,000 a year.

Coda's electric vehicles are also eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit, as well as further credits from the state of California--the car's sole initial market.

Factory equipment includes the usual power windows, locks, and mirrors, a security system, anti-lock brakes electronic stability control, and aluminum wheels.

On the entertainment and electronics front, it comes with a navigation system that offers turn-by-turn instructions, roadside assistance, Bluetooth mobile-phone connection to an in-car microphone and speaker system, AM-FM-XM radio with Sirius satellite capability, iPod docking, and USB port.

Coda plans to offer a three-year, 36,000-mile warranty.

Finding the right car

Founder Miles Rubin has long been an environmentalist, but he knew it takes hundreds of millions of dollars to design and build a car (as Tesla Motors is learning as it tries to fund its all-electric Model S luxury sports sedan).

From his long business experience in China, Rubin came up with the idea of marrying an existing Chinese sedan to a Chinese-built lithium-ion battery pack. That's the sedan version of what Tesla did when it started with the Lotus Elise platform to design its Roadster sports car.

The company now known as Coda worked with the Chinese Automotive Technology & Research Center (CATARC) to survey dozens of Chinese-made vehicles.

They needed one that could be easily converted to electric power, manufactured to Western quality standards, and reliably “Federalizeda”—meaning it would comply with all the regulations and tests required by multiple agencies before it can be sold in the United States.

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