On Saturday, Kevin Czinger, CEO of Coda, the new American car company that split off from Miles Automotive, brought the prototype of their new highway capable EV to our Electric Vehicle Assoc. meeting in Diamond Bar, CA. I have been following this car for over three years since hearing about it in the spring of 2006. Back then, I was told it would be available in a couple of years, but as these things go, it's still a year from delivery. Kevin assured us delivery would begin in August of 2010, putting this one ahead of both Nissan's Leaf and the Chevy Volt. He said they plan on selling about 2,000 units the first year thinking that will break into 40% fleet sales and 60% private. In year two, they will be prepared to make up to 20,000 cars.
The Coda's styling isn't going to turn heads on the highway, but since I often get asked why EVs have to look "so weird", I expect the vanilla styling will suit quite a few folks just fine. It's along the lines of a Toyota Corolla in size and looks. The fit and finish was better than I expected since it is coming off an assembly line in China. It appears the Chinese are improving quickly in this regard. Ultimately, they want to manufacture and assemble the Coda in California.
The range is a solid 100 miles based on the US06 driving cycle, a much more realistic test than the old EPA ratings used. The capacity of the 700 lb. Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePo) battery pack is 33.7 kWh which compares well to my RAV's 27 kWh. The batteries provide 333 volts and have been tested to over 1500 cycles which should be plenty for the 8 year, 100,000 mile warranty. One pertinent piece of info was his assertion that they are buying battery cells at "under $600 kWh". This is considerably less than most quotes I've seen and very close to the $500/kWh level at which I believe is the break even point with internal combustion at today's gas prices.
The weight is a bit on the high side at 3500 lbs. Kevin says they expect to drop that by several hundred pounds by the second generation. Porche engineering helped design part of the exterior and the interior, although the prototype didn't display all of the interior changes the final model will have.
After our meeting, Kevin graciously allowed 3-4 of us to pile in the car for a test ride over and over until about 30 of us had taken a turn. I didn't get to drive it myself, but he wasn't afraid to put the car through it paces for us. Even with four full sized adults, the car performed very well. Acceleration off the line was decent and at about 40 mph going up a hill, the car was still able to accelerate strongly. 0-60 is just under 10 seconds and top speed is 85 mph.
They do have a slight regenerative braking built in when you let off the pedal, but it's weak compared to the RAV and very weak compared to the Mini E or Tesla. I don't know if this is because they are using the UQM DC brushless motor/controller, or if there is another reason, but those who drive EVs love regen braking, so maybe they'll strengthen it later. All EVs should incorporate AC Propulsion's regen with a steering wheel control to allow freewheeling. The combination of the two will allow for the most efficient driving possible.
Charging will be at 6.6 kW, the same as our RAV and fast enough for most needs. High speed charging will be possible once the 50 kW chargers are deployed along the freeways.
Price? Good question. Earlier reports pegged it at $45,000, but Kevin hinted the car would sell for closer to $32,000 after tax credits, but when I tried to pin him down on an exact price, he hedged a bit. This is how all the car companies act when talking price. I understand and don't blame them since a year is a long time, and between component costs and competitive vehicles entering the market about the same time, I expect most will wait until about a month from actual delivery to lock down the price.
The Coda is nice looking, if not exciting. What's exciting is that is uses no petroleum.
The interior was comfortable and the instrumentation was suitable for a mid range car.
Backyard mechanics will find little to recognize under the hood. The UQM motor/controller sits in the middle with the motor under the controller driving the front wheels.
Kevin demonstrating the charging connector.
Thanks to Stefano Paris for the pics!