Manufacturing News

Hafei builds electric cars targeting the U.S. market

The race to be among the first to launch a fully fledged electric passenger car in the US market has a new contender.

Coda Automotive was set up in June 2009. By mid 2010, the Santa California company says it will launch an all electric passenger sedan capable of a five star NCAP rating.

This claim is being made in spite of plans to have the car manufactured by China's Hafei Automotive Industry Group. Hafei's passenger cars have yet to achieve a Chinese 4 star crash test rating, let alone a North American NCAP rating.

In a company release Coda Automotive says its four door sedan will sell for $45000 (307,381 yuan) but will be eligible for a tax rebate of $7500 (51,231 yuan). The car will be powered by a 33.8k lithium ion battery made by China's Tianjin Lishan Battery Co.

The cars propulsion system will be supplied by Colorado based UQM Technologies Inc.

So how many vehicles does Coda Automotive expect to sell the US in 2010? "Just under 2,000," says Coda Automotive spokesperson Kara Saltness.

But Coda believes volume production will ramp up soon with a purchase order for 20,000 electric propulsion systems from UQM.

"The agreement provides for the purchase of 20,000 propulsion systems over the initial two-year period following the launch of volume production," says a Coda Automotive news release on the company website.

The UQM electric propulsion system delivers 100 kilowatts (134 horsepower) of peak power, 300 newton meters (221 pound feet) of peak torque.

But analysts are very sceptical. In China, Hafei's passenger sedan--Saibao--is not successful. The model sold a total 2,847 units from January to July, according to data from Automotive Resources Asia, a division of J.D. Power.

John Zeng, an analyst at Global Insight in Shanghai, dismisses the idea that Hafei will deliver a fully fledged electric sedan to the US market in 2010.

"They don't even have a car for the Chinese market," he says. " How can they have one for the US market?"

Zeng says it may just be possible for Hafei to develop a low speed car for the US market, although this is not considered a real car.

"I don't think they can have a regular ca--a special car for special uses maybe--but I doubt whether they can make a car for US markets,"he says.

Coda Automotive thinks otherwise. "The Coda sedan is engineered to be FMVSS compliant, and based on existing crash test results the company expects a four or five star NCAP crash rating," says Coda Automotive in a company release.

Coda says the car will be backed by a 3 year, 36,000 mile warranty. The car has already been through a few tests, according to company spokesperson Kara Saltness.

"The vehicle has undergone two crash tests required for FMVSS certification and is in the process of being further tested," she said in an email to Automotive News China.

Saltness says the Hafei Saibao sedan has been modified by Coda engineers to make sure it passes US regulations.

"Our engineering team has made extensive changes to the vehicle to enable it to get a high safety rating in the US, which includes sourcing many of the components from different suppliers than the original Saibao used," says Saltness.

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