Up from the ashes of Coda Automotive
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Wed, Apr 9, 2014
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
By Roy Nakano
Remember the Coda? The electric car with the retro Mitsubishi sedan-like body entered into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection back in May of 2013. It was a difficult sell. Electric car buyers want something that looks like the future. A new Coda looked 30 years old. That was then. Coda today is Code Energy. LA Car sat down with Pete Nortman, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Technology Officer for Coda Energy, who reports that the company is alive and doing well in the energy storage business.
If the name Pete Nortman sounds familiar, it’s because Pete was the driving force behind EnergyCS—the company that brought the first plug-in Prius conversion to market. The conversion upped the fuel economy to a whopping 100 miles per gallon, and could travel for extended distances in full electric mode. The plug-in hybrids subsequently caught the attention of Toyota, which now produces its own plug-in version of the Prius.
That product put EnergyCS on the automotive green technology map. Soon to follow from the company were plug-in vehicles in Asian and Europe, the first application of lithium batteries into a plug-in Prius, a hybrid electric bus, battery systems for demonstration vehicles, quick charge systems for cars, and a pure electric vehicle in Germany.
CODA was formed in 2009 with the intent to manufacture electric vehicles. The name of the company is derived from the musical term that refers to the final passage of a musical piece. As legend has it, the company chose the name because it believed its electric cars marked the end to the internal combustion engine.
Early on, CODA Automotive enlisted the services of EnergyCS. Soon, the entire staff was brought into the CODA fold, ultimately resulting in the total emersion of EnergyCS into CODA in September of 2011. While this provided a big-ticket client for the company, it placed all the EnergyCS eggs into one basket.
In March of 2012, the company released its all-electric Coda sedan. At an EPA-rated 88 miles, it had the longest range of any pure electric vehicle in its price range. Alas, it had the look of an old car. The Coda was derived from the Chinese Hafei Saibao sedan, which itself was based on a late-1990s Mitsubishi Lancer. The company learned very quickly that prospective electric car owners want their cars to look like the future, not the past. After one year in production, CODA Automotive sold only 117 cars. On May 1, 2013, the bottom fell out of the basket when CODA Holdings filed for reorganization protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.
The reorganization put a halt to CODA Automotive, but what emerged was a refocus on the energy storage market. "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,” said Phil Murtaugh, the Chief Executive Officer of CODA Holdings at the time of the reorganization announcement.
As it so happens, energy storage is a science that the former EnergyCS engineers know well. “EnergyCS was originally created with the intent to foster advanced technology in electro-chemical battery energy storage for large format applications,” said Nortman. So the reorganization of CODA put the ball in the court of Nortman and the other ex-EnergyCS engineers. Exit CODA Automotive. Enter CODE Energy.
The groundwork for CODA Energy was actually laid in 2011. With the reorganization, however, energy storage moves to the forefront. “CODA Energy’s products are based on the same core technology, which includes its proprietary battery management and thermal management systems, found in CODA’s vehicles adapted for stationary energy storage applications,” proclaimed CODA in a press release during the reorganization. “The Company designs and builds scalable, custom energy storage solutions optimized for generation, distribution and behind-the-meter applications for commercial, residential and industrial end users.”
CODA Energy in Monrovia
Coda Energy moved back to where EnergyCS began—at 135 Maple Avenue in Monrovia, California. Only this time, the engineers occupy two more buildings. There are Coda sedans everywhere, in all manner of usage. “We have a research and development involving an electric vehicle fleet to reduce the carbon footprint of business,” says Nortman. “The community is spared from tons of carbon dioxide every month.”
Today, CODA Energy designs and builds energy storage systems to support a cleaner and more reliable grid. “Hotels and other small businesses facing high intermittent energy loads can save up to 30 percent off of their utility bills with smart energy management,” says Nortman.
The automotive production portion of CODA is over. CODA Energy is now about battery storage systems for commercial and industrial application. Says Nortman, "It’s important for everyone to understand this is not EnergyCS redux or CODA Automotive redux. It's a new, hand-picked team, many of whom were with me at EnergyCS, with new investors and a new focus."
For more information about Coda Energy, go to codaenergy.com