News & Views

Driving the Future

By Mark Norfolk on Sunday, October 17th, 2010


This week I had the opportunity to sample the next generation of transportation at CODA Automotive. Their battery electric vehicle (BEV) is propelled solely by 728 lithium-iron-phosphate cells powering a 134HP (100 kW) DC motor mounted just where you’d expect to find it. This test vehicle was equipped with the comfort accessories we like to see, but was missing the gear selector sticking out of the center console, and replaced by a large rotary knob offering the “P-R-N-D” options we normally have. Driving in the car was rather unspectacular, in a good way. You start it with a key, you press the brake, and select reverse or drive and move away. Silently. That is the only real difference to an EV newbie like me, but will seem ordinary to a Prius owner. There was a slight cooling fan whine, but otherwise we slipped through the Santa Monica traffic in stealth mode. No exhaust or noise pollution from us.

 

The driving experience in total is quite good. The CODA factory driver put the five passenger sedan through a few sprints to show the acceleration. That was worth the trip alone as the torque from the DC motor is immediately transmitted to the front wheels resulting in a very nice surge forward. I also drove a Lamborghini Gallardo this week, and while the CODA was not as neck snapping, it will surprise some owners of compact sedans. Of course spirited driving will reduce the expected 90-120 mile range.

 

My CODA factory driver went through the features and planned improvements for the production version due out in a few months. The sunroof will be eliminated in favor of a higher crash test certification rating. The NAV screen will be enlarged and the knobs and buttons populating the center stack will be upgraded to a more upscale look and feel. In all the CODA is an agreeable sedan, albeit a little expensive at $45,000 before federal, state, and any local incentives. CODA offers a “lifestyle” calculator see determine if the CODA is a good fit for your family and its driving habits. The CODA will be sold through a few boutique outlets and online only.

 

What does all of this mean? The future of transportation looks bright with cars like the CODA sedan and the forthcoming Nissan Leaf. We need to focus on cost reductions to make the economics work for a wider swath of the population. EWI is working to lead the market in battery manufacturing, testing, and inspection methods to make this a reality. We all need to urge policy makers to channel funding into battery materials research to lower the component costs.

 

As the CODA, Leaf, and those coming after make it to a dealer near you, take one for a drive to see and feel what the future of driving looks like.

 

 

Above Images courtesy of CODA Automotive

 


 

Submitted By:

Kevin Arnold, PE

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