A Startup's Electric Sedan May Be First on the Road  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

Technology Review reports that a Chinese-built electric sedan could be the first on sale in the US - A Startup's Electric Sedan May Be First on the Road.

Coda Automotive, a startup based in Santa Monica, CA, is attempting to be one of the first companies to sell a highway-capable electric sedan to the general public in the United States. The car will have a range of 100 miles and will cost $45,000, although federal and state government incentives will bring the cost down to the mid-$30,000 range. However, the new company will quickly face competition from more established automakers for what analysts say will be a small market for electric vehicles--at least until prices come down.

The car will be built by the Chinese automaker Hafei, which makes about 200,000 vehicles a year. The electric sedan is a version of one that Hafei already makes, but it's modified to use an electric motor and batteries instead of a gas engine.

Coda is racing against several large and small automakers that are developing electric cars of their own and plan to start selling them to commercial and government customers for evaluation as soon as next year, with sales to the general public beginning in 2011 or 2012. Coda plans to distribute 300 evaluation vehicles in the summer of 2010 but will keep this test period short to beat others to market. It plans to start selling the sedan to the general public in the fall of 2010 and to deliver 2,700 cars that year.

In addition to trying to bring the car to market ahead of its competition, Coda hopes to distinguish itself with its battery system, which it developed in cooperation with Tianjin Lishen, a major lithium-ion battery maker based in China, and other companies that specialize in different aspects of the battery system, such as the electronic controls. Kevin Czinger, Coda's president and CEO, says that the company jointly owns the factory that makes the battery packs, which will help Coda ensure a steady supply of batteries. This is also true for the Japanese automakers Toyota, Mitsubishi, and Nissan, but he says that his company is ramping up production for electric vehicles faster. By the end of the year, the company's battery factory will be able to produce 20,000 packs a year. "The scale and speed with which we're doing it are very different than the Japanese," Czinger says. "The ownership of mass manufacturing of the battery system distinguishes us from everybody else."

Czinger says that if Coda can be the first to market with a popular mass-produced electric vehicle, it will sell enough cars to pave the way for a second-generation car that is less expensive and has a longer driving range. He says that the next car will be lighter and more aerodynamic, which, along with having improved battery technology, will make it possible to use fewer batteries while getting a 150-mile range.


But the big question is are they building it compatible with Better Place's battery swap stations? Surely the "Better Place" (a name which I hate, because I'm more with Claude Lewenz's idea of "Better Places being car free) model of SatNav integrated battery swap programs makes more sense?

(His 15 minute talk to UNSW is well worth watching).

We're getting Better Place here... they're creating a Brisbane to Melbourne electric highway powered by wind. Ha! If I were still a member of Sydney Peak Oil I'd shove that in the face of a certain troll over there that used to insist that "wind can't run cars".

(Not that I'm a huge fan of cars, but we do what we must to get by).

Not sure - I doubt it - hopefully there will be some standardisation once Better Place or a competing initiative has infrastructure in place for manufacturers to be compatible with.

Eclipse Now, I think the article addresses that directly at the bottom of the first page:

"The car will not be compatible with a system of battery swap stations, proposed by companies such as Better Place, which would allow people to exchange a depleted pack with a charged one in a couple of minutes."

Fast charging the battery in 8 minutes is not terrible, but I'd imagine the electricity requirements for a fast charging service station might be prohibitive. It may be difficult to put the infrastructure in place to provide each station with several MW of power.

That's one thing that has always been staggering to me about cars - a pretty modest gasoline pump can put out around 0.5L of gasoline per second. This still translates to a rate of 16MW of energy transfer to single car! A typical gas station may have 5, 10, 15 cars filling up at once. Obviously the amount of energy stored in a battery pack will be much lower than the energy in a gasoline tank but even a fraction of that energy transfer rate is daunting.

Frankly I think plug-in hybrids could very well become the permanent solution with slow-charging overnight for city driving and fueling up with liquid fuels on the highway - a shift to liquid biofuels can eventually make car travel carbon neutral. Pursuing electric-only cars are only useful insofar as they progress battery technology IMO.

Hmmm, biofuels scare me. I think we'll be lucky to keep agriculture and essential infrastructure equipment like construction gear and mining running on all our biofuels. Is ethanol an energy source, or is it fossil fuels in disguise? Will we have the land to grow food and fuel? How quickly can 2nd generation non-crop, non-farmland biofuels take off?

I laugh when I hear algae people like the Valcent company say "ONLY 10% of the state of New Mexico would supply the USA with all it's energy needs." Gee, is that all, just 40 THOUSAND square miles of high tech glasshouse complete with complex pumping mechanisms and plastic sheeting, and requiring all our sewerage nutrients to be replumbed to supply the nutrients! It might be a great idea for the long term, and close the one-way NPK nutrient flow out to sea and prepare us for peak phosphorus, but it's about the TIME involved in setting up something like this.

So personally I'm all for reducing the need for the personal car "as much" as we currently abuse it. We can rezone suburbia so that it can gradually be replaced by "Village-Towns", while building trams to those Township centres, encouraging bike use, and just generally "disciplining" the use of the car in society, not totally eliminating it.

See the 15 minute talk to University of NSW here.

If we could all start to see the quest as a journey towards a more trendy, beautiful, "European" styled energy efficient CITY, then we'll probably get through this much easier. According to Peter Newman on The Science Show (ABC Radio National) recently, this is already starting to happen. For the first time RE-development in city centres is overtaking the level of suburban sprawl growth on the edges.

This is a good thing!

(However, growth in and of itself isn't!)

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