The ever-evolving Coda sedan in Santa Monica. (Jim Motavalli photo)
LOS ANGELES--I spent four days in California running back and forth between green car companies, including Coda, Tesla, Fisker and AC Propulsion. This state is becoming the epicenter of EV development for several reasons: environmental inclinations, weather, and governments (both state and local) increasingly willing to subsidize both EV purchases and the charging stations they'll need to plug into.
Among the charging projects targeting California are ChargePoint America, the EV Project and a new $5 million effort by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. Many of the charging companies are located in California, too, including Coulomb Technologies. Given all that charging synergy, it's not surprising that Santa Monica-based Coda's early production will go to California only. I visited Coda and found a beehive of activity, as the company tries to get a car ready for the market by the end of the year.
I've gone head-to-head with the Coda in Greenwich, Connecticut, Times Square and now the skateboard-friendly, coffeehouse oasis of Santa Monica. I saw a Tesla Roadster in the parking lot and got excited that I'd stumbled on a secret test project ("Coda team tears apart Tesla to learn its secrets") but it turned out to be a gas-engined Lotus, the car the Tesla is based on. "No scoop there," said Coda's Matt Sloustcher.
Coda Automotive (dig that arty website!) is actually set up a lot like Tesla, with a big open floor to help cross-pollination. Tesla, perhaps reflecting its Department of Energy funding and major investments from Daimler and Toyota, is probably four times bigger, though. Coda is the car company that could, with a novel strategy to market its cars on the Internet. If anyone can make this work, it's CEO Kevin Czinger, a Goldman Sachs veteran with a strong will and a can-do attitude.
Darryl Harrison, newly moved from Nissan to be Coda's spokesman, gave me a tour of the car on video (and points out that it should have a range of 90 to 100 miles):
The Coda begins life far from sunny Santa Monica. Both the chassis and the batteries (through a joint operating agreement) are sourced in China, but Coda says that only 20% of the original Chinese car remains in the vehicle they're bringing to market (which has EV systems from many Western suppliers).
There's no price yet on the Coda sedan, though that's imminent. The car I saw in the parking lot is already outmoded: The rather bland interior has already been remade by a stylist who's been with the company all of four months.
You can have your Coda in any color you want, as long as its black, silver, white or blue. The car will come with iPod interconnectivity, an eight-inch color screen with built-in battery and charge-state monitoring, and guidance to finding the nearest plug-in stations. Bluetooth and satellite radio are standard, as is an OnStar competitor called Quick Link that will provide sports scores, traffic and weather.
The Coda is small, but it has an impressive trunk, thanks to a battery pack located wholly underneath the vehicle and contained within the wheelbase. That location also helps with the weight balance. The Coda tips the scales at 3,600 pounds.
I said to Harrison that I liked the sunroof on the white car in the company parking lot. "That's going away," he said. Sorry, no sunroof.
From Popular Mechanics:
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