From the Wall Street Journal, May 26, 2010; By Norihiko Shirouzu
California-based electric-car start-up Coda Automotive plans to build a factory in Ohio that it said could employ more than 1,000 workers and use Chinese technology to make lithium-ion batteries for an all-electric car Coda plans to launch this year.
The Santa Monica, Calif., company said it is considering several sites in Ohio for the facility.|
Construction of the plant is contingent upon finalizing an incentive package with the state of Ohio and the approval of a loan from the Department of Energy, which the company said it plans to submit soon.
Coda discloses few details about its financial situation; the company said in March that together with Lishen it had raised $100 million in committed capital for the Tianjin venture.
Its board of advisers includes Henry Paulson, the former U.S. Treasury secretary and chief executive of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., who has taken an undisclosed stake in the company.
While the basic technology for lithium-ion batteries has been around for a while, making the batteries safe enough to power cars has proved elusive.
A few years ago when Coda began designing its all-electric sedan, "there were no U.S. suppliers of [large, vehicle-grade] battery systems, period," Coda Chief Executive Kevin Czinger said in an interview in Tianjin last weekend, prompting Coda to look to China.
"We found, luckily, a great partner that was very open-minded and said, 'Let's work together on your technology,' " he added.
Lishen, an established supplier of lightweight batteries for Apple Inc.'s iPhone and iPod Touch devices, "fully supports our decision" to build a plant in the U.S., rather than producing the batteries in China and exporting them to the U.S., said Mr. Czinger, who like Mr. Paulson has a professional past at Goldman Sachs.
Mr. Czinger said Coda will be the controlling shareholder of the battery-production venture in Ohio. Lishen, he said, is expected to take a "small minority interest" in the operation.
Mr. Czinger said Coda aims to replicate in Ohio the Coda-Lishen manufacturing plant in Tianjin, which he showed off this past weekend to visiting U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke. The proposed U.S. plant is expected to eventually create "thousands of jobs," he said.
Coda said its sedan will have a driving range of 100 to 120 miles on a full charge. It will cost buyers about $35,000 after some $7,000 to $7,500 in federal tax incentives.
Coda says its car will compete with electric vehicles such as the $32,780 Nissan Leaf, which Japan's Nissan Motor Co. has plans to launch in the U.S. in December.
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