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EV maker Coda goes under

Gone: This Chinese-made sedan was sold by Californian EV company Coda, which has now filed under Chapter 11.

Another US EV-maker in dire straights as Coda seeks to stave off bankruptcy

Coda logo2 May 2013

By MIKE COSTELLO

THE Californian company behind the Chinese-made Coda electric car filed for bankruptcy protection yesterday and will now focus on energy storage outside the automotive industry.

Coda Holdings filed a voluntary petition overnight with the District of Delaware under Chapter 11 – the section of US bankruptcy law that allows the debtor to retain control of its operations.

Accordingly, the company signalled its intention to exit the automotive sector and direct its full focus to its energy storage arm, Coda Energy, which it created two years ago.

Coda Energy applies technology it used in cars to build lithium-ion batteries for utilities and building operators to store power.

This process is intended to enable the company to complete a sale within 45 days, release a business plan and emerge from bankruptcy in a stronger position outside automotive.

If granted approval from the courts, a consortium of lenders will step in to keep Coda Energy afloat throughout the restructure, and later buy it for a reported $US25 million ($A24.4 million). The company says it will also seek to “monetise”, or sell, its existing automotive business assets to settle debts.

Coda Holdings chief executive Phil Murtaugh said the proposed move away from cars and into industry represented to “best opportunity” for the company.

“After concluding a comprehensive review of our strategic options, the board of directors, management team and senior lending group have concluded that focusing on the company's energy storage business presents the best opportunity moving forward,” he said.

News of Coda’s exit from EVs comes three weeks after luxury plug-in hybrid start-up Fisker shed 75 per cent of its workforce – having not produced a car since July 2012.

Around the same time, a third Californian EV start-up, Elon Musk’s Tesla, came under fire after reportedly encouraging some customers to pay up-front for cars before build so it could turn a profit – the first in its 10-year history.

Continuing with the theme, US battery providers A123 and Ener1 Inc also sought bankruptcy protection inside the past 12 months. A123 has since been acquired by Chinese corporation Wanxiang.

As we have reported, Coda started production of its electric sedan at the Los Angeles motor show in 2011.

Based on the (Pininfarina-designed) Chinese Hafei Saibao sedan (in turn based on a 1990s Mitsubishi Lancer), the Coda EV used a 333-volt 33.8kWh lithium-ion battery, with a range as high as 241km.

But GoAuto believes Coda sold just 100 units in the US throughout the car’s life, which was priced from $US39,900 (or $US37,200 in California with its $US2500 rebate). The car was criticised for its bland styling, while its short history also included a recall due to faulty airbags.

Coda raised more than $US300 million in private funding over its life, but withdrew a request for $US334 million in US government loans in April 2012 – unlike Tesla and Fisker, both of which received backing.

At launch in 2011, Coda claimed its electric sedan offered a then industry-leading 10-year, 100,000-mile battery warranty and the “best value per dollar range” based on its ability to travel up to 150 miles (241km) before requiring a recharge.

It also claimed fast and easy recharging of the 728-cell battery pack, located under the floor between the front and rear axle to achieve “optimal performance through balanced weight distribution and a low centre of gravity”.

Other features of the propulsion system included a 100kW/300Nm electric motor – which the company said propelled the 1670kg five-seater sedan to 85mph (137km/h) “with ease” – plus a regenerative braking system and an ‘air-cooled active thermal management system’.

A 6.6kW on-board charger enabled a claimed 100-mile (161km) range in four hours on a 240-volt supply, or 50 miles (80km) in two hours. A full charge required six hours.

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