Tesla Motors and CODA Automotive are taking different routes to gas-free auto transportation.
Challenging large, entrenched companies isn’t easy for a small firm. Doing it with unproven technology is another level of complication, but both of our GOOD Company finalists today are doing just that: Building all-electric cars to compete with the biggest automobile companies out there. But each firm has a different approach to all-electric autos. Which one makes the most sense?
Tesla proudly touts the fact that it was founded in 2003 by a group of Silicon Valley engineers who wanted to demonstrate that an all-electric vehicle could perform as effectively as any sports car. By 2008, they had succeeded, releasing their first Tesla Roadster and selling more than 1,650 in the next two years. Tesla Roadsters are among the most impressive electric cars, with performance that matches gas-fueled high-performance vehicles, though it only sports a range of 100 to 200 miles and requires three-and-a-half hours to charge. Still, if you’re not taking your Porsche on road trips—and who’s taking their Porsche on road trips?—this could be the perfect green substitute. But that raises another question: Is a vehicle that starts at $109,000 new going to land in enough driveways to create any significant green impact? Probably not. But then again, making electric cars cool may help the whole sector—and more than one of today’s major auto companies got their start at the turn of the century making racing cars whose technological advances trickled down to consumer vehicles.
This company is following more of a Henry Ford-style model, making electric cars for regular consumers. But a CODA car is pricey, too: It starts off at $45,000, though the price could drop to the high-30s thanks to federal and state tax rebates. The company’s cars have a comparable range to Teslas—the company says a full charge will run up to 150 miles—and look smart next to other mid-range sedans. CODA, founded in 2009, just set up shop in Los Angeles to take advantage of the city’s hopes for a future with smog-free cars, betting that an interested market and supportive politicians will help them in the long run. Marketing an all-electric car to consumers means preparing them for a variety of new situations, from the logistics of charging to a limited range, but if the company can convince people that the gasoline savings and environmental impact—not to mention the performance—outweigh the higher price for a mid-range sedan (a hybrid Ford Focus starts at $29,000), they’re well positioned to create a whole new market of electric vehicles for the rest of us.
These two finalists are trying to build the next generation of transportation options, one from the high-end down, the other from the mid-range out. We’ll talk to both to figure out which model holds the most promise for business success and environmental impact. Spoiler alert: The answer may be both.