First Look: Coda Electric Sedan


Would you pay $45,000 for a small, Chinese-made electric car with a 100-mile-or-so driving range, even if it were eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit? That’s the question Coda Automotive will find out the answer to next year when it launches its four-door, five-passenger sedan in California.

Coda Automotive is a spinoff of five-year-old low-speed-EV seller Miles Electric Vehicles. The car is based on China’s state-owned Haifei Auto’s Saibao sedan platform and will have a range of 100 miles. There’s no on-board generator, so after about 100 miles (as much as 120 miles in optimal driving conditions) it has to be plugged back into a power outlet.

Many eco-friendly small cars, like the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius, use aerodynamic styling to visually communicate and augment their frugal powertrains, but the Coda isn’t one of them. It has the sleeper looks of a people’s car, not a swoopy, zero-emissions vehicle.

Underneath the Coda’s anonymous sheet metal is a different story. Coda CEO Kevin Czinger is quick to point out the sedan’s cutting-edge, 333-volt lithium-ion batteries and the performance they’ll provide in tandem with the EV sedan’s 100 kW (134 hp) electric motor.

“This is a vehicle that provides sufficient utility to satisfy more than 90% of most drivers’ needs,” Czinger said. “It has zero to 60 acceleration of less than 11 seconds, which we believe is good performance for a five-passenger sedan. With the [$300 to $500] optional fast charger, you’ll be able to recharge the batteries up to 80% [capacity] in 10 to 15 minutes.”

Without the fast charger, the Coda EV will require five hours to charge using a special 220-volt plug installed in your home, or up to 30 hours if trickle-charged using a standard 110-volt plug.

At first, lithium-ion batteries will be produced in China in a joint-venture between Coda and Chinese battery manufacturer Lishen. Czinger said Lishen is the same company that makes lithium-ion cells for Apple, Samsung and Motorola. Eventually, Czinger said, Coda has plans to build a battery factory in the U.S. with a yet-to-be-named domestic battery company.

I sat in the back of the Coda test car during a brief ride-along. Its acceleration felt satisfactory -- certainly on par with mainstream American sedans. The electric motor was a bit on the noisy side compared with other electrics I’ve ridden in. A four-wheel independent suspension gave it a good ride.

What concerned me, though, was the vehicle’s interior quality. The tester came off the same assembly line in China that Haifei uses to build its conventional cars, but it’s not up to the high standards Americans are used to -- even in a compact car, but especially for a vehicle that’s expected to carry a mid-$40,000 price tag. Coda execs promise that improving interior fit and finish is a high priority between now and the start of sales. What can’t be fixed is the rear seating. I found the second row to be incredibly cramped, even though I’m only about 5-foot-11. The generously sized trunk takes too much space away from rear passengers.

Safety is important. Czinger promised Coda expects its car to achieve a top, five-star crash-test rating using Europe’s NCAP assessment program. It will also have an advanced airbag system and electronic stability control.

Coda’s electric powertrain isn’t the only part of its car that’s unconventional; so is Coda’s sales model. The company will only sell vehicles through its website, not at brick-and-mortar dealerships.

“We’re going to have a direct sales model, where we funnel sales to our website,” Czinger said. “We’re talking to several service partners, where people in California will be able to go for a test drive before they buy.”

The site will feature an application that asks buyers to enter information about their daily driving habits to see if the car’s utility will meet their needs before they schedule a test drive.

A limited battery supply will limit first-year sales to only California and a maximum of 2,700 vehicles. Leasing won’t be an option. Buyers can finance the purchase or pay the purchase price up front.

How will Coda drivers recoup the high price of their car? The company estimates it will only cost around $3 to drive 100 miles, versus $17 per 100 miles in a 20-mpg car. That’s supposed to save about $20,000 over 10 years.

Czinger said he expects costs to come down as Coda makes more progress in its battery technology and scales up its production.

Compared to the upcoming Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle, which is expected to have a similar price, a 40-mile electric-only range and a 600-mile total range (the batteries can be recharged while driving by an onboard, gasoline-powered generator), the Coda EV sedan could be a tough sell, even to consumers who care only about what doesn’t come out of their car’s tailpipe – not their wallets.

CodaDash CodaElectric CodaEngine CodaExt CodaInt CodaTrunk  CodaStill


Egad! That thing is fugly. Its painfully obvious they will sell about 100 in the states to only rich celebrities wanting to one up each other. The least they could do is give it a proper grille.


They don't have to give it a "proper" grill because it's not a conventional car. Grills are mostly used to help air flow and to cool the radiator. This car doesn't have a conventional engine therefore shouldn't be generating too much heat. Also we don't want water getting on the electronics :)


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Al G.

Last time I was on a business trip in Philadelphia I saw these zip cars (mostly Toyota Prius) all over the place. In Philly they even have tons of parking spaces dedicated to these cars. Sharing cars in not my bag but it seems pretty popular in Downtown Philly. As far as car companies worrying about this arrangement cutting into their profits. No worries1 I think most would rather own a vehicle rather than share them. Car is for me a personal item. On of the benefits of owning a vehicle is the convenience of having your car there ready to use whenever you want it. That being said for those who like in the city, take public transit and would need to only use a car now and again to run errands then maybe for them zip car is a viable option.

Al G.

Sorry I posted the above in the wrong place


The car would have a far better range if they included an 800 mile long extension cord.

Those LED (fog?)lights look random. It's ugly as crap. The interior looks like a generic version of Hyundai's interiors around the turn of the century, before they got good.

Oh, and it's a communist car.

lol but seriously, why not buy a Volt instead.


1. It is Chinese. It will break. a lot.
2. Do we want to buy Chinese? Grow them strong and then borrow from them? It wouldn't be a problem if they weren't 1.5 billion of them...communist...with nukes...You got it
3. $45Gs? Show me the Tesla showroom.
4. No. We will not buy this.


PS. Anyone buying this should be considered "Enemy of the state" and shipped back to China packed in his/her car.

Al G.

I'll pass this plug in is plug ugly.

Oh and even after it meets US safety regulations we're going to find it has an uncanny ability to violently split in two anytime it's involved in a 10-mph crash.


Fast charger that charges 80% in 10 to 15 minutes?? That's pretty good. Other than that the design and interior look like crap.

johnny t

americans are known for spending unnecessary amounts of money on cheap status symbols (i.e. hummer, escalade, karma, etc), but even someone with more dollars than sense will not give this car a second look. you can buy a really good car, and a whole lot of gas for 40 grand. maybe they meant 40,000 rubles.

Dave Wuss

Californians will definitely buy this car. I know I would. The interior is no worse looking than a lot of GM cars. It makes me wonder if GM would have bought this company instead of trying to design something from scratch how things could be a whole lot different for them today. 100 miles on a single charge is pretty exceptional.


Jeez, a lot hate against the Chinese in this site, sad...
but a lot of the criticisms are warranted, companies like Brilliance have atrocious safety records, and the interior of this car looks so incredibly ugly, I mean ugly to the point that it gives me flashbacks to the GM cars in the mid nineties... But aside from that the powertrain is exceptional, and would be useful to commuters within the range specified by Coda. Hopefully, there will be better choices coming soon.


Maybe they could plug is electric system into the Hummer brand after the sale is complete.....kidding of course.


"...a lot hate against the Chinese in this site..."

What for do you want to love them? Because they poison our dogs and children, or because they poison the world in general. I mean, with all those regulations that we have here in the US, the Chinese industry spills into air and the ocean so much pollution...
They just care to make their commie bastards govmnt look good and powerfull. And our companies unfortunately support all that. Because we're their biggest consumer. We and Europe should tell them, first, bring your manufacturing to some healthy standards then we will buy from you. But we don't care. Our govmnt cuts limits here, we go there and pollute to the space orbit.

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I would but anything in this class as long as it´s all electric. Overall this is pretty ok. To those giving out about it´s looks - wake up, you´re missing the point. This is all-electric and a new way of life.
Unfortunately it is too dear. They need to slash the price and get buyers in the doors. And it is not going to be available till when?.... Now thats the big problem.. even the Nissan Leaf despite it´s hype we don´t know when the hell we´re going to get it. I wish some company would do a Model T and just start turning out a cheap electic car for everybody ($20-25k).
I am really blue in the face with all this "taken orders" crap - what kind of stuff is that? When they introduce normal cars they don´t go on like this, they just hit the showrooms and see how it goes.

Mr commonsense

eeeeeya ugggly . what makes them call it coda or coda stand for ugly. perfomance sounds all right but that hideous look got to go.this car took it right back to 70s and i hate the sthetics of it,they need to fire the designer right now and fine him for chasing away possible clients like me.oh buy the way may i do the esthetic part of the car, i would design a car thousand times better looking in my dreams. i hope this ceo guy will look at my comment.


Since it's Chinese, it will
-Blow up
-fall apart
-Will be disposable
-have lead based paint
-be built by a 5 year old earning $2 a day

In addition, this looks like it's from 1990. I would not buy this just based on what China stands for.

Shawn Becker

Looks great! The only problem is that the price is a little high! Do they have a two door model comong out anytime soon?


Why don't you throw out your apple IPHONE, IPAD and Ipod? they are all procuded by Chinese.


Coda just filed bankruptcy and is discontinuing this car. Did anyone really expect a different outcome?

First of all, hybrids are far more practical than electric vehicles because they self charge as you drive - eliminating the need to spend a day charging them back up every 100 miles.

Hybrids like the Prius and Camry have another huge advantage.... servicing them.

Anyone who was suckered into buying one of these Coda sedans will discover that buying a vehicle is one issue, but servicing the vehicle is just as important. If the car has a problem while you're on vacation in Florida, where is that service shop going to find parts for this car?

Before Coda went under, your car would have to sit in the shop for weeks waiting on parts... maybe months. Now that the company is out of business, good luck on parts. Good luck even finding a mechanic who knows how to work on it or even WANTS to risk pulling it apart.

That is why when Coda slashed their price to $25,000 it still wasn't a worth the money. Nobody needs a $25,000 paper weight in their driveway.

You can purchase a new Prius for about $24,000 or a Nissan leaf for about $29,000 and rest assured the car can be fixed when it needs to be fixed.

I feel very sorry for the folks who bought this fugly box of bolts without ever thinking their decision completely through.

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