There is a time honored business theory that says the most innovative products will often come from small entrepreneurial firms rather than industry behemoths. And that certainly seems to appy to electric cars where Tesla and Fisker giving established automakers some real EV competition. Now, we want to add one more name to the upstart list. CODA. An electric car company that has a plan to turn everyone on to pluging-in.
Though the company has been honing it’s EV plans for years, 2012 marks Coda Automotive’s official entry into the EV competition with a volume produced compact sedan. Still, as a new brand with limited resources, they're fully aware that going up against the big boys will be an uphill battle. But Coda hopes their combo of better Lithium Iron Phosphate battery technology, more efficient battery management software, inside a more traditional package, will grab a profitable slice of the electrified-car field.
The Coda starts out as a glider, a car without an engine, that’s built-up in China under Coda supervision. The electric drive and batteries are added at Coda’s plant in Benicia, California. A production process not unlike Tesla’s original Lotus derived roadster.
The Coda’s 134-horsepower electric motor drives a hefty 221 pound feet of torque through a single speed transmission to deliver a factory 0-60 time of 9.5 seconds. That rates well with other EVs.
But, it’s the all-electric driving range that impresses EV-buyers the most. On that, Coda claims to deliver the most miles on a charge of any non-luxury EV in production today. Coda says a driving range of 125-miles is possible from the 31 kWh battery. Moreover, they have a government certified rating of 88-miles, compared to 76-miles on the Ford Focus Electric and 73 for the Nissan Leaf.
Charging time is the same as the Focus, just 6-hours when hooked up to a Level-2 240-volt charging station. It can take as much as 30-hours, however, with 110 volts. The battery pack is mounted low in the chassis of the car which helps when it comes to handling, another strong point for the Coda. Steering is fairly neutral feeling and surprisingly quick, giving the Coda a very responsive feel and an entertaining nature similar to the Focus EV.
Another sound Coda move good is taking the Hyundai big warranty approach with a 10-year 100,000 mile coverage for the battery system.
Styling is very conservative. Aside from LED driving lights, Coda looks like a garden variety 4-door, 5-passenger sedan. Still, not being an EV billboard may be a plus for buyers uneasy about being a rolling experiment.
A solid list of standard features like 17-inch wheels, 7-inch navigation touch screen, air, iPod Port, and nicely done Eco-Cloth fabric also helps.
Options are limited to leather upholstery, upgraded stereo, and black-painted aluminum wheels. But our eyes also caught interior fit-and-finish that while acceptable, was not up to the standards we’re used to in modern production cars. However, Coda says our car was a very early one and that customer cars are better. The dash and gauges look familiar save for the large battery meter on the left and energy meter on the right. Further EV info can be found on the nav. screen.
And, there’s a real back seat, with room for 3 passengers, and a bona fide trunk with no battery intrusion and room for 14.1 cubic-ft. of cargo. That's pretty impressive.
When it comes to pricing, the Coda slides in between the Leaf and Focus, starting at $38,145. Factor in the usual government rebates and you could walk away with one for under 30-grand.
While still something of a work in progress, the results so far from this upstart are very encouraging. The 2012 Coda’s combination of more range, long warranty, and true sedan practicality grabbed our attention and kept it. And, we think it should for EV buyers, and other EV makers, too.
Torque: 221 lb-ft.
0-60 mph: 9.5 seconds