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Coda Automotive offers free charging rebate

Coda sedan with wind turbinesHonda is offering $3,000 worth of free fuel with its Civic Natural Gas, and now Coda Automotive is offering its own alternative to the free tank of gas. The California-based electric carmaker is giving customers a rebate for free charging.

The rebate is $552, which Coda says is enough for 10,000 miles of electric driving in its compact sedan, based on an electricity rate of $0.12 per kWh. Citing EPA and AAA data, Coda says it would cost $1,700 ($2,000) to drive a gasoline powered car with 22 mpg the same distance.

How a far a person can get on $552 depends on the cost of electricity, which depends on where a given Coda owner lives and whether he or she charges during off-peak hours. Still, Coda says electricity prices are more stable than gas prices. The company claims gas prices have risen an average of 106 percent since 1992, while electricity rates have only increased by an average of 10 percent.

Free fuel of any kind sounds like a good deal, but what about the car buyers will be filling with those gratis electrons? The Coda sedan is a compact based on the Chinese Haifei Saibao. It has an EPA-rated range of 88 miles (although Coda claims a range of “up to 125 miles’) and is rated at 73 MPGe. 

That means the Coda has a better range than either the Nissan Leaf (79 miles) or the Ford Focus Electric (76) miles, although both cars beat it in MPGe. The Leaf returns 99 MPGe, and the Focus returns 105.

However, the Coda was not designed to dominate in efficiency. Its maker envisions it as a no-nonsense, affordable EV. The only problem with that scenario is that the Coda costs $37,250, while a Leaf only costs $35,200. Both cars are eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit.

Still, $552 worth of free electricity should at least make buyers curious. That presents another problem: as with the natural gas-powered Civic, a Coda will be difficult to find. The company has only been signing up dealers since last month, so there are a limited number of places to get this car. Coda plans to open 30 stores in California, Oregon, and Florida.

There really is no such thing as a free lunch, but at least this promotion will benefit EV shoppers who live on the West Coast.