By 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.