There’s a new player in the electric car market this year, but its long-term plans don’t necessarily include trying to unseat other brand’s stake in the burgeoning market.
Coda is a small electric car manufacturer based in California that started selling its self-titled 2012 Coda EV just this year. As anyone who knows the auto industry will say, the barriers to entry for automotive startups are too big for most new comers to climb.
But that’s due in part to the fact that previous stabs involved business to customer sales, leaving those brands looking like so many squashed insects under the big feet of GM and others of its ilk.
That’s where Coda’s unusual revenue strategy comes in. It walks the traditional avenues, yes, but at the same time company executives tell AutoGuide that there’s more to expect.
First, Coda sells its battery technology for uses other than automotive drivetrains. In fact, that part of the business came even before the car existed.
Second, and more importantly, the automaker’s environmentally friendly goal to reduce oil dependence comes above selling its own EV. How so? It’s simple. The drivetrain is for sale separately.
Not in such a capacity that you could buy one and be off to build your own electric go-kart, but the brand is openly willing to let any automaker buy the system to put in future electric cars.
On the sidelines of a recent media drive, Coda marketing exec Thomas Hausch said the brand isn’t advertising the policy aggressively. Instead, the company hopes to prove its drivetrain in the real world. If and when it starts gathering attention from other manufacturers, the idea of powering the competition will come into play.
Actually proving the differences between its drivetrain and the competition is easier said than done, but the car managed to travel 112 miles over the course of our day-long test drive. Other electric cars including the Nissan Leaf came close to meeting their EPA range estimates but didn’t beat them.
It’s a strategy that might end up paying big dividends because of key differences between its propulsion system and those found in cars like the Ford Focus Electric. Lithium-ion batteries are still the first choice for most automakers. That’s because lithium-ion is capable of storing more energy in a smaller space than Coda’s technology of choice: lithium-iron phosphate.
It takes up more space, which is why Coda’s car was built around the batteries rather than the other way around. That decision allowed for a battery pack that it says will prove to be more resilient in the long run and more capable of maintaining charge capacity over time.
Long term capacity or more specifically expected long term capacity is becoming something of an issue for certain Nissan leaf owners. As AutoGuide has previously reported, the car’s battery pack seems to suffer lost capacity in hot climates. Some Leaf owners in Arizona are complaining that after only a year of ownership, the car’s pack can’t be completely refilled.
That’s something Coda’s battery chemistry is better suited to handle. Additionally, the car is equipped with a system that keeps those batteries cooled or heated to remain at optimal temperatures regardless of climate.
Furthermore, Hausch said the company is currently hard at work to expand its dealer network. The approach is anything but pushy — instead of trying to foolishly muscle for position, Coda is looking for dealers already experienced in selling electric cars that want more variety.
But how much can a brand like that really expand? Electric cars, after all, are fantastic in California where their drivers enjoy a generous network of charging stations. The same simply isn’t true in less EV-friendly markets, but there are still plenty of places that welcome going gassless.
Hausch told AutoGuide that the company already has more than 30 letters of intent from dealerships interested in adding the Coda EV to their rosters.
That expansion will certainly take time, but with its plan already in action, the future could be bright for Coda. Then again, it would be far from the first startup automaker to find swimming with bigger fish unsustainable.
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