The Coda battery electric vehicle is maturing in more ways than one: First seen at the 2009 Los Angeles Auto Show, the car's initial rollout got delayed while U.S. engineers addressed quality shortcomings of this Chinese-built 4-door sedan. Now, with California availability of the BEV projected for December of this year, Coda is quoting a delivered price of $44,900 (after which one figures the federal $7500 tax credit and whatever other incentives apply). Encouraging all this, Coda has opened a cool-tech Experience Center in the Westfield Century City Shopping Center in a trendy part of Los Angeles.
Also, the company is confident enough of the car's capabilities to put the likes of me behind the wheel for a 100-miles- jaunt on everything from Malibu's Pacific Coast Highway to Potrero Road twisties to Rte. 101 freeway pounding. This opportunity displayed the Coda's assets—including exemplary range—as well as its principal shortcoming, namely the inevitable maturity of its underlying chassis.
The confident 100-miles range comes from the Coda's 36-kWh lithium/iron-phosphate battery pack (50 percent more energy than the Nissan Leaf's). Coda claims—and I can believe—that some driving cycles yield as much as 150 miles. It's figured that the Coda's final EPA range assessment will come in at around 105 miles. The car carries 6.6-kW recharging hardware (akin to the upcoming Ford's, twice that of the Leaf's). This implies a full recharge in about 6 hours, given the appropriate 220-volt/30-amp Level 2 hookup.
A feature allowing this 6.6-kW recharge rate is the Coda's active thermal management of its battery pack, the system separate from (though sharing hardware with) the cabin's heat and a/c. Appropriate air is recirculated in and around the 1000-lb. battery pack residing beneath the cabin, completely within the wheelbase. One advantage of recycling the cooled/heated flow is the energy saved in not duplicating dehumidifaction efforts. Lots of elegant BEV engineering here.
In a sense, Coda has opted for exemplary BEV hardware and saved cash on the rest. The car's rolling chassis dates back to the 2004 Hafei Saibao, a gasoline-powered Chinese sedan of even earlier Mitsubishi origin. And, alas, this heritage hurts. Packaging of this 176.4-in. 4-door is inferior to that of the Nissan Leaf, for example, which is decidedly roomier even though a skosh shorter overall.
Everything in the Coda is fine on smooth roads, even if these roads twist around. The car's electric-assist steering and regenerative brakes operate without eccentricity. Its 134-hp motor driving the front wheels provides adequate kick (though the available torque at accelerator tip-in is a bit too controlled for my taste). However, a lot of chassis development has occurred in the auto world since the millennium, and the Coda's basic ride/handling dynamics can feel cart-like on indifferent surfaces.
On the other hand, the two cars I drove exhibited solid construction, with nary a rattle nor creak despite the ride becoming less than state-of-the-art. One of the cars, though, betrayed its preproduction prototype status by virtue of a slapdash trunklid-to-bodywork fit.
Automotive styles have evolved as well, though all the votes aren't in yet as to whether a BEV, inside or out, should look kinky-green or non-descript. To be charitable—albeit honest—the Coda's exterior looks millennial Japanese. With the exception of its center-console-mounted knurled-knob shift control, ditto the interior. Balancing this conservatism of design, standard Coda features of note include an Alpine audio/nav system, connections for all manner of i devices, Bluetooth and a GreenScreen monitoring energy consumption and efficiency.
If EV growth is to skyrocket (as some propose and promote), then maybe there's cachet in a stealth-BEV. Let's watch reactions of the trendy folks perusing the Coda Experience Center in Westfield Century City Shopping Center.