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04/30/2012 02:22 PM     print story email story  

Car News: Coda, Honda, Zipcar, Gas Demand Way Down

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CODA's first car went on sale last month in California, the CODA 2012 sedan with a starting price of $37,250 including the desination charge. That's about the same price as the Nissan Leaf.

Now, Coda announced it will produce its next electric vehicle (EV) with one of China's fastest growing auto manufacturers, Great Wall Motors.

Their goal is to offer an EV for the same price as a conventional car by combining Coda's electric drive and lithium battery expertise with China's low cost manufacturing. Final assembly will take place in California.

They plan to bring a car to market in North America, China and Europe within two years.

Founded in 2008, Coda has raised over $200 million in capital and its CEO spent 30 years at General Motors.

Meanwhile, Honda Motor announced it will provide its core hybrid car technologies to a number of Chinese automakers to boost sales there - the world's largest auto market.

Giving up proprietary information is seen as a short-sighted move by many, but Honda says, "We hope that other automakers will use our IMA technologies," a Honda executive told the Nikkei. "We want to set industry standards for hybrid technologies in the world's biggest car market."

Both Toyota and Nissan also have plans to assemble hybrids and produce critical components like batteries in China.

Although China has made EVs a priority for the auto industry, sales have been extremely poor. The industry emphasis needs to be on plug-ins first, says a report by McKinsey & Co, Recharging China's Electric Vehicle Aspirations. They estimate that plug-ins with small batteries could reach cost parity by 2014 and by 2017 for those with larger batteries.

Although they haven't incorporated a large number of EVs yet, many people may end up being introduced to them through car-sharing services, which are proving to be really popular. 

Zipcar (NASDAQ: ZIP), the largest car-sharing service grew revenue 20% in the first quarter to $59.1 million (from Q1 2011), and membership grew 23%. 

The company, which went public last year, has over 650,000 members and 8,900 vehicles in urban areas and college campuses throughout the US, Canada and UK.

In Chicago, Zipcar will make 30 Chevy Volts available this year in its first foray into electric. Daimler is expanding its EV car-sharing service nationwide this year and has 300 EVs in its fleet.

Finally, gasoline demand in the US is expected to be the lowest since 2001 this summer because of the use of more efficient vehicles and high gas prices.

At about 8.8 million barrels per day from April through September, that 6.4% less than 2007's record demand, according to the US Energy Information Association.

While people may drive less because of high gas prices, filling up the car will only be slightly more expensive. Even filling up an older, inefficient car that gets 20 miles per gallon (mpg) would cost $6 more for 500 miles roundtrip. Those with newer more efficient cars that get 30 mpg, for example, would pay $4 more to fill up.



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