Coda's China Battery Venture Piles On $100M

Coda SedanCoda Automotive, the Santa Monica, Calif.-based startup aiming to build electric cars in China for the U.S. market, has just announced the first funding for its joint venture with Chinese battery cell giant Lishen Battery Power. The startup said this morning Coda and Lishen have agreed to invest $100 million in their venture, which has just received a commitment for a $294 million line of credit from the Bank of Tianjin Joint-Stock Co.

This comes as the latest step for the startup in its effort to leverage China’s lower labor costs, as well as the country’s “success in rechargeable-battery technology, and its substantial investments (both made and committed) in R&D for electrified transport,” as McKinsey Quarterly has put it. At the same time, Coda aims to capitalize on the larger budgets of U.S. consumers and EV-friendly policies in California, where it plans to debut an electric sedan outfitted with battery packs made by its JV with Lishen in Tianjin, China.

According to Coda’s release today, this funding for the battery joint venture will enable Coda and Lishen to “rapidly” set up commercial production of the power system for Coda’s planned electric sedan, and support “mass manufacture” of energy storage for transportation and utility applications.

Coda, which spun out of low-speed electric vehicle maker Miles EV last summer, also said today that it has added on funds to the Series C round first announced in January. Spokesperson Matt Sloustcher tells us this morning that the company’s total equity financing now “exceeds $100 million,” up from $74 million in January. The company does not expect to close the round for another “few months.”

Back in January, Coda marketing director Kara Saltness told us that the Series C round of funding would “[B]e allocated to the final safety certification testing” of the Coda Sedan and also “to scale up production of our battery systems.” The company also hopes to set up battery manufacturing in the U.S. at some point, possibly with funding from the Department of Energy.

The Coda Sedan has been in the works for more than two years now, under several names and just about as many price points. Miles initially estimated the model would cost about $30,000, but when Coda unveiled the sedan last summer, the estimate had climbed to $45,000 (before tax rebates).

Saltness told us earlier this year that the company is “confident” the sticker price when the sedan launches will actually be less than $45,000. Coda CEO Kevin Czinger tells Reuters this morning the price will likely be in the “low $30,000s.”

Coda plans to begin making deliveries in the fourth quarter of this year (in January Saltness said Coda expected to to produce a total of 1,600 vehicles in 2010 and the same number of battery systems at its new plant in Tianjin, China with Lishen). By the end of 2011, the company says today that it hopes to deliver more than 14,000 vehicles to customers in California.

Photo courtesy of Coda Automotive