There's a third electric car that will go on sale within the next six months, though you may not hear of it if you don't live in California.

Joining the 2011 Nissan Leaf and the 2011 Chevrolet Volt will be the 2011 Coda Sedan, a compact four-door battery electric sedan with five seats that offers a range of up to 120 miles. 

The Coda is truly an international collaboration with its "glider" (assembled bodyshell and interior, minus the powertrain) made in China, as are its lithium-ion cells. Those cells are assembled into a battery pack here in the States, and the electric drive motor, power electronics, and pack are installed into the car here as well to complete the assembly.

Now Coda appears to be on the verge of finalizing a deal for a large-scale assembly facility, which it plans to locate in Benicia, California. It's a town about 35 miles northeast of San Francisco in Contra Costa County, sitting right on an arm of the Bay at the Port of Benicia.

2011 Coda Sedan prototype - charging socket

2011 Coda Sedan prototype - charging socket

screen capture from promotional video for 2010 Coda Sedan electric car, released June 2010

screen capture from promotional video for 2010 Coda Sedan electric car, released June 2010

Coda spokesman Forrest Beanum referred to the Benicia facility as "temporary," and the company still wants to open an assembly plant in southern California, where it is headquartered. But with projected output from Benicia as high as 14,000 cars a year, Coda's first factory could represent a significant footprint in green-car manufacturing.

The company strongly emphasizes that it is a U.S. company and that its cars are not "Chinese built," although as it turns out, the definition of an Amercian-made car can produce some non-obvious results. Its new factory would underline the U.S. final assembly: Photos of cars rolling off production lines under their own power have strong impact.

And it would make a pair of electric-car factories located east of San Francisco Bay. Part of the Tesla-Toyota partnership announced in May was a provision under which Tesla would buy the former Toyota Corolla plant in Fremont, just northeast of San Jose, for assembly of its all-electric Model S luxury sports sedan starting (theoretically) in 2012.

From Benicia to Fremont is about 45 miles, though in congested East Bay traffic it can take more than an hour to cover that distance.

But while the two cars target different segments--the Coda Sedan is a nondescript compact, while the Tesla Model S concepts that have been shown are sleek and striking--they offer the promise of green manufacturing in a state where clean air is never taken for granted.

[Contra Costa Times]