Summary:

One of the big hurdles in engineering electric cars is to figure out how to effectively monitor and control the battery systems. For Coda, that means buying EnergyCS to beef up its battery management system development and expand into the grid energy storage market.

Coda sedan

Coda sedan

One of the big hurdles in engineering electric cars is to figure out how to effectively monitor and control the battery system, which can degrade and shorten the range of the car. Coda decided it might need a little help in this arena, and this week said it is by buying battery management startup EnergyCS.

Coda declined to disclose the price, and had previously been working with EnergyCS in developing electric cars before the purchase, but it now wants EnergyCS’s technical knowhow in-house. Battery management systems involve a set of electronics and software that manage the charge and discharge of the energy from the battery pack. Coda told us last year that its battery management system was more sophisticated than Nissan’s for its electric LEAF.

The acquisition also represents an effort by Coda to build business beyond electric cars. The Los Angeles company, which spun out from Miles Electric Vehicles in 2009, wants to sell energy storage systems for uses such as supplying backup power and banking renewable energy. It also wants to sell electric car propulsion systems.

The electric car startup, which delayed the launch of its first car last year, is now aiming to do so in late fourth quarter, said Larkin Hill, a spokeswoman for Coda. The price for the all-electric sedan is set at $44,900. The company also has opened a showroom in Westfield shopping center in Century City, Calif. (next to Los Angeles) earlier this month, Hill said.

Because the electric car market is only emerging, startup companies have a fighting chance to establish a foothold. But big automakers haven’t been shy about launching electric cars – all-electric or plug-in hybrid – either, and they have the big marketing dollars to draw consumers in. General Motors and Nissan LEAF are among the new early entrants, and Ford is stepping up sales campaigns for its Focus Electric, set to be launched later this year.

So it’s perhaps not surprising that Coda is branching out to other markets where it could sell its car technologies in pieces. Tesla Motors sells its expertise at designing powertrain systems and recently inked a $100 million supply deal with Toyota, which also is a Tesla investor.

Coda’s plan to enter the energy storage market is shared by other American lithium-ion battery makers who are hoping the electric car market would take off faster. While the U.S. promises to be a big market for energy storage, it may not take off as quickly as, say, China, where more concerted government plans to increase wind and solar energy production will make energy storage systems a necessary companion to manage the supply and demand of renewable energy.

A slew of battery companies announced their forays into China. The country also could be a big market for electric cars, and here is where Coda holds some advantage. The company created a joint venture with Chinese battery maker, Lishen, last year. Along with Lishen, China’s Hafei Motor has worked with the Coda team throughout the u process.

Coda has been on a hiring spree this year. It brought in a new CEO (Philip Murtaugh), chief financial officer, head of marketing and sales, and head of engineering.

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