Electric Car Startup Coda Closes $58M Round, Eyes Singapore

Coda Automotive, the Santa Monica, Calif.-based startup that aims to build electric cars in China for the U.S. market, has just announced the close of a whopping $58 million Series C round of financing. The company, which plans to launch its inaugural vehicle — the Coda Sedan — in California later this year, also says today it plans to set up an office in Singapore. This latest round, led by Aeris Capital and joined by Singapore-based EDB Investments, among others, brings Coda’s total invested capital to more than $125 million.

Back in January, Coda marketing director Kara Saltness told us that the company’s Series C round of funding would, “be allocated to the final safety certification testing” of the Coda Sedan and also “to scale up production of our battery systems.” And today Coda, whose investors include Former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson (who oversaw the government’s bailout negotiations with General Motors (s GM) and Chrysler) says the new funding will go toward two main efforts: launching the Coda Sedan (scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2010 with a price tag estimated around $35,000), and ramping up production of energy storage systems from Coda’s joint venture with Chinese battery cell giant Lishen Battery Power.

The joint venture, dubbed Lio Energy Systems and headquartered in Tianjin, China, is working on lithium-ion batteries for transportation as well as utility applications. Coda announced the first funding for Lio in late March, saying at the time that Coda and Lishen had agreed to invest $100 million in their venture, and that the Bank of Tianjin Joint-Stock Co. had agreed to provide a $294 million line of credit for the company.  That long term credit commitment has now been raised to $327 million.

In Singapore, Coda plans to set up a facility to work on designing and engineering right-hand drive electric models for markets in Europe and Asia. The startup also expects the Singapore office to contribute to Coda’s research and development of vehicle-to-grid technology — or the two-way flow of electrons between electric vehicle batteries and the power grid.

According to a statement from CEO Kevin Czinger on Wednesday, the company plans to focus on introducing its vehicles to the U.S. market this year, with international markets gaining strategic importance for Coda over the long term. By the end of 2011, Coda hopes to deliver more than 14,000 vehicles to customers.

Coda Chief Financial Officer Dan Mosher told us recently that the startup hopes to gain an edge in the nascent electric vehicle market by being an “honest broker.” He sees other automakers “being pretty aggressive” when it comes to the amount of electric range they’re promising, and risking their reputations in the process. In particular, Mosher said “customers might be disappointed” if they think they’ll be able to drive the advertised 100 miles on a fully charged Nissan LEAF battery. Coda, for comparison, is promising 90-130 miles of electric range depending on driving behavior, with a 33.8 kilowatt hour battery pack.

Images courtesy of Coda Automotive

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