By now, everyone knows about Tesla — manufacturer of some of the coolest electric vehicles on the market. Tesla models are sleek, fast and they have excellent ranges and good technology. But before there was Tesla, there was another California-based electric vehicle manufacturer that succeeded in getting a precious few cars on the road: Coda.
Coda was an electric vehicle manufacturer based in Southern California, and it created an electric car by taking the Hafei Saibao — a subcompact Chinese sedan — and sticking a 31-kWh lithium ion battery inside it, delivering a total range of about 88 miles. The Coda EV, as it was called, debuted in March 2012, about a year and a half after the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid and the Nissan Leaf EV went on sale.
Unfortunately, the Coda wasn’t much of a success. The styling was tremendously uninspiring, with the design resembling a compact sedan from years earlier. The range, while acceptable back in 2012, wasn’t exactly great — and at 130 horsepower, the Coda EV’s performance wasn’t strong. Coda filed for bankruptcy in 2013, having supposedly sold only about 120 units of the EV — likely all in Southern California.
Amazingly, I saw one a few nights ago in San Diego. I was sitting at an outdoor table, having dinner, and a white Coda drove past, moving silently with its Suzuki Forenza-lookalike styling. It was only the second one I had ever seen in real life, and I couldn’t believe that I was seeing one of the 100 or so surely remaining — actually moving under its own power, as if it were a totally normal vehicle.
Even more amazingly, it seems there’s a company called Mullen that is trying to re-launch the Coda — using the exact same failed design that Coda used six years ago — as a new product, apparently dubbed the Mullen S Edition (alongside a supposedly-upcoming SUV). Meanwhile, Coda itself was reportedly purchased after bankruptcy by Exergonix, a Midwestern energy storage company, and absorbed into the larger firm. In other words, Coda is totally gone, just a distant memory for the few of us who even remember it — unless you happen to have a Coda, in which case you’re probably trying to figure out where to get it serviced.