CODA's electric sedan, a Model T like milestone?

Like the Model T Ford, CODA Automotive's electric sedan is priced well below competitors, and both vehicles, early examples of their respective technologies, will take you the same distance.

The first CODA sedans roll off the assembly line in the San Francisco suburbs. (Image credit: CODA Automotive)

The first Model T rolled off Ford's assembly lines just over a century ago when a gallon of gas cost around 7 cents. Today, amid comparatively higher fuel prices, laborers in Benicia, CA., were celebrating another automotive milestone: the completion of a the first CODA electric car.

CODA Automotive is a high tech electric car start-up that is built around modern battery technology rather than the internal combustion engineer that was made ubuitious by Ford and other automotive pioneers. Yet, there are a few interesting similarities between it and the early Ford.

You could travel nearly the same distance in both vehicles. The 2012 CODA sedan is EPA rated to travel 88 miles per charge, but the company says it can be driven up to 125 miles depending on driving conditions. Ford's Model T had a ten gallon fuel tank, and got somewhere between 13–21 mpg.

An early Model T could run on ethanol, gasoline, or kerosene; a self-reliant farmer could produce their own fuel. The CODA can be plugged into your garage (if you pay up for the electric job and work with your utility).

Price is also nearly equivalent, and like Ford, the CODA is disruptive. Both vehicles are priced significantly below their competition. It is worth asking, could CODA we first in line to conjure up Ford's Model T magic for electric cars?

Early adopters of the iconic Model T paid US$850, which adjusted for inflation, is somewhere around $20,000 is today's market. The CODA costs $37,250, but the company estimates that tax credits will lower its costs to $27,250, but there's no guarantee that subsidies will continue indefinitely.

Both vehicles are priced significantly lower than competing models. The Tesla S has a base price of $49,900 and the Chevy Volt's base sticker price is $40,000. Ford's competitors sold for $2000-$3000, or between $50,000-$75,000 in 2012 dollars.

Ford was able to further reduce its costs, becoming an astounding business success story. CODA's business challenge is more complex. The cost of its drivetrain will never be inexpensive - even if it does achieve greater economies of scale.

Its savings will be realized by insulating owners from spikes in gas prices as global demand rises geopolitical turmoil upsets futures markets. That being said, many Americans believe that the country can drill its way to $2/gallon gasoline, and may not view an electric vehicle as the solution to rising gas prices.

CODA has very wisely branched out, and sells energy storage systems based upon the sedan's lithium-iron-phosphate (LiFePO4) battery pack to support the power grid. It also has recruited top industry talent , scored a  contract with Hertz and has partnered with General Motors to make charging stations more widely available.

The Model T and CODA are made during very different times and are addressing different problems. But remember, no dance is ever the same steps twice.

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