Home » Coda Was One Of America’s First Modern EV Startups, Then It Went Bankrupt. Here Are Three Of Its Cars Sitting in a Junkyard

Coda Was One Of America’s First Modern EV Startups, Then It Went Bankrupt. Here Are Three Of Its Cars Sitting in a Junkyard

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What if I were to tell you that a limited production electric vehicle, designed by Pininfarina, was sitting in a junkyard somewhere in California? Not only that, but as many as three of them are there, just baking away in the bright California sun.

If you’re thinking it could be none other than the multi-million dollar Pininfarina Battista … it’s actually not—it’s the Coda electric sedan! And, to clarify, it technically wasn’t designed by Pininfarina directly, but rather based on the Chinese Hafei Saibao, which was.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

But wait, what was the Coda? And what were three of them doing in a junkyard? Time to plug in and top up on your knowledge of rare, esoteric EVs from over ten years ago.

Codaev22222
nissan_nerd on Instagram

Economic Contender

Presented to the world in 2011 and in the press’ hands by 2012, the Coda EV was built to compete with the Mitsubishi i-Miev and Nissan Leaf. Presented with 150 miles of range, 6.6 kW charging, and over 200 pound-feet of torque on tap, it was a promising proposition in its day.

Those specs may not sound all that impressive by today’s standards, but they were class-leading during its era. The teeny little 3,723-pound sedan put out 134 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque, which outgunned the Leaf and i-Miev, and still out-drove them: Motor Trend reported a real-world range of 88 miles against the Nissan’s 73 and Mitsubishi’s 62. There was also the Ford Focus EV which got as far as 76 miles on a single charge.

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Then there was its MSRP of $38,145 after an $895 destination fee and $7,500 federal tax credit, which was significantly more than the Nissan and Mitsubishi, though cheaper than the Ford.

Coda Ev 233
Coda

What Was It Like?

“I don’t know that this is the case, but it feels as if the electric motor’s abundant torque is being meted out by the teaspoon here,” one tester wrote of the Coda for Edmunds. “Really slow to get off the line and I’d bet the tires could handle a good deal more than they’re being asked.”

A cursory search came up with similar impressions from other publications. Reviewers also generally liked its ride quality and handling, though, cabin noise was a bit much on the highway, and apparently it made a pronounced electric drill noise at higher speeds as well. Man, how far we’ve come.

On the whole, it seemed like it was just a boring econobox EV, which ain’t a bad thing. When it was new, Coda Automotive’s creation was received as very bland and unappealing, and it didn’t help that it cost a bit more than options from legacy automakers. However, I sure wish we had more boring econobox EVs now; there aren’t as many affordable options as there ought to be.

Coda Ev 3
Coda

What Happened, And Why Are Three In the Same Plot of Land?

After only selling 117 cars in for a little over a year, and only in California, the company did mass layoffs and then faded away. It had some leftover stock just sitting around after; in fact our own Jason Torchinsky wrote about the sad fate of these for Jalopnik around ten years ago: Chinese company Mullen threw its badges on them and attempted to clear ‘em out.

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This is interesting: Apparently, as of 2019 there were still some new Mullen Codas floating around California, according to the Sacramento Electric Vehicle Association’s comically ancient-looking website. The website also denotes that they’re only available as used, though—is there some mad man in the Greater Sacramento Area with a warehouse full of these things, slowly replenishing them for the used car market? What a heck of a feature that’d be.

Codaev333333
nissan_nerd on Instagram

As far as why they’re in the junkyard in Southern California, it makes you wonder if whoever owned any remaining stock found it more economically beneficial to just scrap them. Whether the junkyard will make any money off of them is another story.

Which is all a shame, because it’s not a half-bad-looking EV econobox. It’s a tale of what could have been, as well as an attempt to bring future-minded tech to the mass market by way of a lesser-known—or simply unknown—automaker. We’ve seen similar stories over the years, plus that whole thing going on with Fisker at the moment, and it’ll be interesting to see who comes along as the next Coda Automotive.

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Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
2 months ago

Aw, man. These are such weird little dingleberries on the EV family tree.

Matt Wishart
Matt Wishart
2 months ago

“A coda is a concluding segment of a piece of music, a dance, or a statement. It’s usually short and adds a final embellishment beyond a natural ending point. Like this.”

Appropriately named as it turns out. Should have named it ‘Intro’.

Last edited 2 months ago by Matt Wishart
Aaronaut
Aaronaut
2 months ago

Thumbnail image for the article: supercar silhouette
Actual content: knock-off Opel econobox

I’ve been bamboozled!

Turbotictac
Turbotictac
2 months ago
Reply to  Aaronaut

I feel smeckledorfed

Andreas Jüngling
Andreas Jüngling
2 months ago

*aggressive throat clearing*

This needs a link to Aging Wheels’ YouTube Channel. The guy bought several Codas for himself and explains them in detail. Plus, I could imagine him being wild enough to drive out to California to snatch some parts off of these. 😀

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqyCJV-lJ7I

Josh Jones
Josh Jones
2 months ago

came here to advocate for Robert myself! glad to see someone beat me to it 🙂

Awesome dude.

M0L0TOV
M0L0TOV
2 months ago

Hell yeah! More parts for his Coda project! I’m glad we’re all on the same page.

Astrass
Astrass
2 months ago

I saw three Codas in the headline and my first thought was that Robert had given up! Someone let him know these exist, he’s got three.

Space
Space
2 months ago

Despite that EV website looking ancient, they posted newsletters all the way up to September of 2023.
Its sometimes sad to see old websites stagnate or go dark. You can’t even read Gawker or the old oppositelock.

Phuzz
Phuzz
2 months ago
Reply to  Space

The Internet Archive Wayback machines has copies of web pages going back decades. It’s not perfect, but you can browse (eg) Gawker from twenty years ago: https://web.archive.org/web/20040404152433/http://www.gawker.com/

JaredTheGeek
JaredTheGeek
2 months ago

Out of Spec on YouTube bought a new one from a San Jose dealer last year. It sat on their lot for years. They jumped the 12 volt battery and it still worked. Aging wheels also keeps one going. It’s really the car type that needs to be made today with how far the tech has come.

RayJay
RayJay
2 months ago

The body looks like a tweaked 9th gen Corolla

E Petry
E Petry
2 months ago

Are these not just Suzukis? They look like Suzukis

Electronika
Electronika
2 months ago

Tell me why, on earth, hasn’t someone just gone and picked these guys up to do any number of easy EV conversions? I mean this powertrain could easily drop in any 80’s FWD car or an VW. This would be an awesome package to drop in an 70’s/80’s VW Caddy UTE or what about one of the Chrysler FWD Utes like the Rampage / Scamp? I can’t stop thinking about the possibilities. If these were in Colorado I would not be typing this I would be driving to the yard already, even without a specific project in mind. There are so many underwhelming FWD cars that could be picked up for a song with a dead or notorious (Iron Duke anyone) 4cyl mill that would be at least as horrible with this powertrain. How about that old Lancia Beta HPE that has been sitting with a bad head gasket for 2 years? Boom now its an EV that you can daily.
Sounds like a great project starting point. Who cares if it isn’t that powerful or if it isn’t modern. Its better than that ancient Fiat mill?

PresterJohn
PresterJohn
2 months ago

Wow I have never heard of this. I kinda wish someone offered a totally non descript EV with 150mi range today

Elduchey
Elduchey
2 months ago

I remember seeing these at the 2011 LA Auto Show and man were they bare bones. No sound deadning or carpet in the trunk and looked like they were just slapped together in enough time to roll them out for the show.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
2 months ago

“Here Are Three Of Its Cars Sitting in a Junkyard”
Someone let Robert Dunn of Aging Wheels know… he has a couple of examples and likely is interested in some parts

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yEJ4-BgybxY&t=1s&ab_channel=AgingWheels

AlfaWhiz
AlfaWhiz
2 months ago

Everyone go check out his channel while you’re at it. Very autopian kind of guy. Some collab maybe?

Mark Jacob
Mark Jacob
2 months ago
Reply to  AlfaWhiz

This, 1000%. He would be such a great addition to this site!

M0L0TOV
M0L0TOV
2 months ago
Reply to  AlfaWhiz

It’s funny how we all thought the same. I really do enjoy his channel, it’s fun and informative.

Mark Jacob
Mark Jacob
2 months ago

This was my first thought!

Needles Balloon
Needles Balloon
2 months ago

I wonder how much range it’d gain with some steelies with flat wheel covers.

88mi (EPA) out of a 31.4kWh LiFePO battery isn’t terrible even nowadays, that’s 2.84mi/kWh. That’s not too far off modern PHEVs, like the Prius Prime at 2.95mi/kWh.

Toecutter
Toecutter
2 months ago

88 miles EPA probably means 120-ish miles cruising 70-75 mph on the highway.

I predict flat wheel covers by themselves could show a measurable 3-5% improvement on the highway at steady speeds with A-B-A testing, but would be “noise” on an EPA fuel economy test.

The more aerodynamically streamlined a car is, the more penalized the EPA fuel economy ratings will be relative to what the car can eek out on a long-distance freeway drive without much stop and go. Loss of built-up kinetic energy absolutely kills EV range.

If the Aptera ever comes out, I expect that the steady-speed highway range people could easily get will be off of the EPA figures by 50-100%. And if you were to lead foot drive an Aptera, I would suspect that you could easily cut range to less than 1/3 of what it would be if driven at a steady sped on the highway over a long trip.

When Alan Cocconi got 140 miles range with lead acid batteries in his Honda CRX conversion during the 1990s, his trick was to accelerate using only 25A of battery current, coast to red lights, and then cruise at about 55 mph on the highway once he got up to speed(the speed limit at the time). He did this on the Pomona Loop in the 1990s, using battery technology that was about 1/4 as energy dense by weight vs what the Coda had, and these AGM lead acid batteries had a very pronounced Peukert’s effect(as current draw increases, deliverable capacity decreases, and it is an exponential relationship). His CRX conversion could accelerate from 0-60 mph in 6 seconds.

Marteau
Marteau
2 months ago

I’ve heard in a podcast that tavarish or one of those youtubers bought 7 of them.

Undecided profile name
Undecided profile name
2 months ago
Reply to  Marteau

Aging wheels has a few

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
2 months ago

It says a 150 mile range, and then an 88 mile real world range? What’s with the huge discrepancy? Am I missing something?

Toecutter
Toecutter
2 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

Steady state highway cruising, which is typical of most long-distance driving in the U.S., vs. Motor Trend’s lead foot driving which tends to be significantly worse than EPA ratings, said EPA ratings which will tend to be significantly worse than steady state highway cruising.

It’s easy to use up all the energy in an EV battery pack and get way less than advertised range. There are hobbyist EV conversions, such as John Wayland’s 10.4 second Datsun 1200 “White Zombie”, which could eek out 150 miles range on the highway following the speed limit, but also get less than 10 miles range of pedal-to-the-floor driving.

Last edited 2 months ago by Toecutter
Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
2 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

Motortrend just sucks at driving. Makes sense

Toecutter
Toecutter
2 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

It’s not that they suck at driving, so much as when they drive, they tend not to care about maximizing their efficiency.

With EVs, you have to care, or your range will be crap. Especially so when you have a smallish battery pack.

If the Coda were taken out onto a freeway and kept at a steady 70 mph, I am certain its range would be much closer to 150 miles than 88 miles. But drive it like your average American in a traffic-dense city with lots of stop and go and no real concern for efficiency, and 88 miles is going to be closer to the reality. Drive it with a lead foot in stop and go traffic, and that range could possibly go to less than 50 miles.

A similar discrepancy exists between what drivers were getting with the GM EV1 on the freeway, vs. the EPA’s revised range rating. Steady 70-75 mph cruising, the EV1 with the NiMH battery was an honest 130-150 mile range car, but the EPA rated it to 105 miles. Driven very carefully cruising at 55 mph, former drivers of these EV1s have exceeded 200 miles range.

EVs already have a very limited amount of energy available to propel them vs a gasoline ICE. The gasoline ICE tends to see thermal efficiency climb as load increases, whereas an electric motor is already broadly efficient across its operating range. Lead-footing an ICE car will not see nearly the drop in usable range as lead footing an EV, vs what they would get driven carefully. This is also why EV trucks with massive battery packs that get competitive-to-ICE range driven without a trailer, also get crap range while towing and will mostly prove impractical for this use case, while their gasoline-ICE counterparts are practical to use even in bad weather.

Last edited 2 months ago by Toecutter
Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
2 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

Yeah, it’s interesting how different cars respond to different driving styles. Some will absolutely tank the fuel economy if you drive them hard, and some kinda don’t. I have a friend who beats the snot out of his 96 Civic and still gets over 30mpg. I doubt the fuel economy would increase all that much if he drove it more normally.

Toecutter
Toecutter
2 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

Stock, you might be able to eek out 50 mpg in one with careful driving if it has a manual transmission. VTech engines are highly efficient as far as ICEs go, and to get even better thermal efficiency, you often have to go to schemes like GDI(at the cost of reliability/longevity, which IMO is not worth the tradeoff).

If the car had greatly improved aero, fuel economy could go way up. Like, to 50 mpg at 90 mph, and 95 mpg at 65 mph, kind of up. Check out the Aerocivic:

https://aerocivic.com/

Because of the VTech’s lean-burn, thermal efficiency doesn’t drop off as much at low loads as was typical of gasoline ICE engines of the era.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
2 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

There is a big difference between a car like that aero civic and this d16 non vtec sedan. Stock, I’d guess 40mpg tops in a car like this, you’d maybe squeak 50mpg in a hatchback with different engine.

Toecutter
Toecutter
2 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

Non V-tech you say? That makes 30 mpg driving it like a hoon even more impressive.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
2 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

Old Hondas are famous for VTEC, but most people don’t realize how rare it was. Honda never built a D series engine with VTEC, and never built an F series engine with VTEC until 1998. Prior to the millennium, base model Hondas never ever had VTEC, and even Si models often didn’t.

VTEC is mostly only on the newer K series engines, or the very highest performance(think type R) cars.

Toecutter
Toecutter
2 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

Thank you. I did not know that.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
2 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

 Honda never built a D series engine with VTEC,”

That is not true. Some versions of the D15, D16 had it.

And remember the Honda Civic VX of the early to mid 1990s? It had the D15Z1 engine which had ‘VTEC-E’.
And remember the Civic EX in the USA or Civic SI in Canada from 1996-2000? Those had the D16Y8 with SOHC VTEC.
And the D17A2 used in the Civic EX/SI (US/Canadian market respectively also had VTEC.
And there were more VTEC variants of the D-series than that… but these are just off the top of my head.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honda_D_engine

 and never built an F series engine with VTEC until 1998.”

The 1994 Honda Accord EX with the 145hp F22B1 VTEC engine would like a word with youhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honda_F_engine

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
2 months ago

Okay, I stand corrected, and thank you. This is what I get for being just enough of a Honda expert to not really know that much about Hondas.

I didn’t know there were Accord EXs with VTEC, I thought it was just the variable intake runners.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
2 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

On a global basis, they made many MANY variations of a lot of their engines… particularly the D series.

And the D-series was actually a renamed ‘EW’ engine that came out in the 3rd gen Civic in 1984.

So technically the D-series engine design was in cars starting with the 1984 model year right up to around 2007… meaning it was in FIVE generations of Civic (3rd gen to 7th gen) and numerous other models throughout the world

And another thing you may not know… the EW/D-series was an old-school-Honda engine which had some quirks… such as a crank shaft that spins counter-clockwise.

Almost all other engines, including recent Honda designs such as the L series, R series and K series, have cranks that spin clockwise.

And that means when you look at the engine bay of an old FWD Honda and compare it to most other FWD cars, you might notice that the transmission is on the “wrong” side.

Here is a picture of a 1987 Civic SI engine bay… note the altenator belt being on the driver’s side:
https://i.pinimg.com/736x/3e/5c/c8/3e5cc80ab5b16ec2c97b219b67bb8bd1.jpg

And this is the engine bay of a 1988 Corolla (or pretty much any other transverse/FWD car)… note how the alternator belt is on the passenger side:
https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/Dku3Z7LqPM4ZAQwHBENKpw–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTY0MDtoPTM2MA–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/motorious_297/63175e5902cbb88a5a5807ba348d3ec4

I once owned a 1987 Civic Wagovan that had the EW1 engine and a carb… last year of the carb in North America. But being a Canadian model, mine had a manual choke while US models had a less reliable automatic choke (which they added due to some EPA/emissions rule).

While owning that car, I got VERY familiar with the EW/D-series engine. I did some minor modifications to it such as a low restriction exhaust and that thing would then make power right up to around 7500rpm.

Even though is was their ‘regular’ engine that stood in the shadow of the more performance oriented B-series, it was still was a great engine.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
2 months ago

A D/B series spins the opposite direction from an F/H series? F and H engines are also on the wrong side of the engine bay, the same as a D series.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
2 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

A D/B series spins the opposite direction from an F/H series? “

The F/H are also old-school Honda and also have a crank that rotates counter-clockwise. .

I’m not sure about the V6 engines.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
2 months ago

I know that the J series is on the passenger side as normal, I assume it’s standard rotation. Weirdly, this led to two generations of Accord having the engine pointed different directions, and in different places, depending on whether you optioned the four cylinder or by.

Knowonelse
Knowonelse
2 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

And on a recent long drive in my ’21 Prius AWD I was getting only about 42 MPG instead of the 50 MPG as was usual. It was raining hard the entire trip which ruins efficiency.

Toecutter
Toecutter
2 months ago

This was not first presented in 2011. It was originally the Javlon XS500, unveiled in 2007. Miles Automotive Ltd. had a vision of a sub-$30,000 long range EV sedan with a real-world 150 mile range. They knew it was possible back then. Due to insufficient funds, it never really got off the ground, Miles Automotive Ltd went bankrupt, and the car became the Coda, which never saw the production volume needed to get the price down either under its new ownership, again due to lack of sufficient funding.

Developing a single car model and getting it through U.S. regulations is a $1 billion endeavor, start to finish. The established automakers bought the regulations needed to make things this way, on purpose. Tesla is the lone outlier that broke through, and is probably the sole reason we have any EVs available at all. Better 2 decades late than never I suppose…

The surviving Codas are rare orphan vehicles with zero technical support or parts availability. If anything computer-related fails, you won’t fix it. The software is proprietary, and even though the manufacturer is defunct, those who could help get them back on the road aren’t sharing the software needed.

GM, Ford, and Chrysler could have done something almost as good for as cheap in the 90s, and without any proprietary bullshit software to make repairs impossible, if they really wanted to.

Last edited 2 months ago by Toecutter
Col Lingus
Col Lingus
2 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

I learn a ton of shit from you Toe Man. You better not be lying! /s
Seriously really enjoy your comments and apparent knowledge on the subject.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
2 months ago

Here’s one not in a junkyard with only 45k on the clock for $4,300:

https://sfbay.craigslist.org/eby/cto/d/newark-2012-coda-ev/7727303406.html

Zelda Bumperthumper
Zelda Bumperthumper
2 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

I love the description in that ad. Basically, “I’ve been daily driving a car more rare than the McLaren F1, and I don’t know anything about it except it’s nice and has good tires.”

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
2 months ago

Does that kink on the F-Series windows have a name? It used to only be on the 250’s and up, and the Excursion, but they eventually implemented it on the whole range and I’m happy my 150 has it. I’ve always really liked it, in the same way I like the Hofmeister kink. Just a nice little piece of visual interest, and in the truck makes the window being down a nice place for my arm.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
2 months ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

Interesting take. My sister complained about it. She said it makes it easier for the smash and grab thieves to see if you left anything worth stealing inside.

Being a smart ass, I told her she’s got nothing to worry about. Unless they bring a ladder with them.

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
2 months ago
Reply to  Col Lingus

Ha! I’m not sure how it makes it any easier unless the thief is really, actually very short and you leave valuables in the footwells? I dunno, I’m looking at it right now and it’s only 2-3 inches difference. I even squatted down to see if it meaningfully occluded anything and I don’t think it does?

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
2 months ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

Hers are very high, raised 4×4 with running boards. So she has caught several people standing on them looking for anything worth stealing.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
2 months ago

These were electric converted 2005 Hafei Saibao IIIs, the design was already several years old by the time Coda began importing it, and hadn’t been class leading to start with. The build quality and general refinement was sub-1980s Hyundai, and the silence of the electric motor probably didn’t help in calling attention away from that

Toecutter
Toecutter
2 months ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

The quiet electric motor in my GT6 conversion got rid of all of the violent shaking previously done by the inline 6(I probably needed new motor mounts, but still), but I can hear every creak, groan, and scrub. The whine of the transmission makes it sound like a cartoon car from the future.

Without the noise of an ICE, you’ll hear everything, even if the car rides very smooth.

Cranberry
Cranberry
2 months ago

If anyone wants more and haven’t seen Aging Wheels (YouTube), he has a host of Coda videos.

Citrus
Citrus
2 months ago
Reply to  Cranberry

His eat wheel bearings like candy, if I remember right.

PajeroPilot
PajeroPilot
2 months ago
Reply to  Citrus

Wheel bearings, yes. Also, his interior door handles and trunk latches seem to disintegrate when exposed to air.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
2 months ago
Reply to  PajeroPilot

I mean, it’s a mid-2000s Chinese sedan with an electric drivetrain shoved into where a Mitsubishi clone engine normally would have been, every part on it that’s still Hafei (and that’s basically everything but the drivetrain) is going to be pretty janky. It was an $8,000 car in China with the original ICE powertrain, Coda was asking $37,250 for it in the early 2010s after converting to electric, but the materials and build quality of everything else was still $8,000 mid 2000s Chinese domestic market

PajeroPilot
PajeroPilot
2 months ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

Yeah, you need to keep your expectations low, to be sure. But the level of jank is what makes it such entertaining viewing.

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