A Mass-Market Electric Car?
I recently came across a news story on the Coda, a new electric car, and noticed that one of the few dealers was within a few miles of my house. Yesterday I stopped by, explained that I wasn't really in the market but was curious, and was given a chance to drive it.
The Coda claims to be a five passenger car, but looked a little cramped for four adults. Its general feel was respectable but not luxurious. What is interesting about it is the price—MSRP of $37,250. State and federal subsidies are supposed to total about ten thousand dollars, bringing the cost to the buyer down to not much more than a comparable conventional sedan.
Claimed range on a single charge is up to 125 miles, time to fully recharge on a 240 outlet about six hours. Allowing for a reasonable safety margin, that makes it good for a trip of forty to fifty miles each way or a commute of up to twice that distance with a charging station at the other end. My guess is that that would make it an adequate replacement for something like half of U.S. autos—a car for someone who didn't take long trips, or the second car of a family that did.
If the figures I was given were correct, that 120 miles costs about four dollars worth of electricity, a third to a quarter the cost of gas for a similar car with a conventional engine. For a car driven ten thousand miles a year, that is a savings of about a thousand dollars a year, not enough to justify the list price of the car but sufficient to make it a reasonably attractive buy with current subsidies.
The current subsidies may not—hopefully will not—continue indefinitely, especially if the number of cars being sold becomes large. But I was told that nearly half the cost is for the batteries, so if battery technology continues to improve the price without subsidy might fall to somewhere in the twenty to thirty thousand dollar range in a few years. And if improvements include an increase in energy density, the range could become adequate for all save long trips.
Which is interesting. The Tesla is a snazzy looking car, but definitely a luxury vehicle. The Coda, if it performs as advertised and no unexpected problems show up, could be a serious competitor in the mass market in not very long.