Coda Holdings, the parent of electric car maker Coda Automotive, is assembling an impressive array of funding and business alignments. This includes a new round of funding announced yesterday, and in recent weeks they’ve opened an assembly plant in Benicia, opened a retail store in the Los Angeles area, and moved to acquire battery management system designer EnergyCS.
The company is moving in two directions at the same time. The first is to develop an electric car, their Sedan, and begin selling it to the public later this year. The second direction is to unbundle their battery systems technology and sell battery pack systems to other vehicle manufacturers, and energy storage systems for the smart grid market.
Yesterday’s funding announcement was for a $147 million “series D” round of investment, which had been intended to raise $125 million but was “oversubscribed” with investors instead ponying up $147 million. The round was led by New World Strategic Investment, which Coda CEO Phil Murtaugh describes as “a highly respected and established firm that has a strong history of supporting the clean tech industry in Asia.” He went on to say “I believe that CODA Holdings is at the forefront of one of the most exciting industries in the world and the closing of our Series D funding and strategic partnership with New World, continues to demonstrate the high level of international commitment that exists in developing and supporting the electric vehicle, EV propulsion and energy storage industries.”
The company states that in addition to supporting the launch of the CODA sedan, Series D proceeds will be used for the development of their products in energy storage and EV propulsion systems.
Last week Coda announced a partnership with Amports, described as an automotive processing services company, to set up an assembly plant in Benicia CA. Coda’s Sedan is manufactured by a Chinese automobile company and shipped to the U.S. as a “glider”, meaning it lacks a drive train. The plan has been to do final assembly and testing in the U.S. and to use enough U.S. sourced parts so it qualifies as an American vehicle. The deal with Amports implements that plan and they expect to hire an additional 50 workers for Coda assembly. Benicia is in the San Francisco Bay Area and is, coincidentally, better known as the location of an oil refinery. The Amports facility in Benicia is just north of the Benicia Bridge, near the intersection of I-780 and I-680, giving it easy access to trucking on I-80 and rail transport.
Last week Coda also announced the acquisition of battery management system designer EnergyCS. They had already been working with EnergyCS in the design of the Coda battery system, so bringing EnergyCS in-house represents an opportunity to leverage synergy and other business management buzzwords.
“EnergyCS has succeeded in the goal of developing the most advanced battery management system that ensures the safety, performance and reliability of battery systems for electric and hybrid vehicles,” said Peter Nortman, founder of EnergyCS. “Our key intellectual property and years of know-how will be integral in CODA’s planned EV and energy storage growth. This merger will also create new opportunities to expand the EnergyCS branded technology portfolio.”
Battery management systems are a critical component in electric vehicles. They monitor state of charge, monitor the charging process, and in every way ensure battery longevity and reliability. Coda’s design includes heating and cooling systems for the battery pack.
Two weeks ago they opened up their first auto showroom at the Westfield Century City Shopping Center in Los Angeles. The company has long promised a different electric car buying experience where customers go to a retail learning experience center to receive electric car education. The store built at the Century City center bears a strong resemblence to the hib vibe-filled Apple retail stores. The actual purchase/sale will apparently take place elsewhere.
These are all positive moves that are signs of a company that intends to follow through on the promise of launching an electric car company. The other half of the company, the half developing energy storage systems, seems to be a play to more quickly secure a sales and income stream. Automobile startups are so rare that the U.S. has not seen a successful new car company in over 50 years. (Before you shout TESLA, are they yet successful?) Hedging the automobile startup bet with an energy storage product line seems like a wise business choice.
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