Coda Automotive Lines Up for DOE Loans for Ohio Factory

Coda Automotive, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based electric car startup that has partnered with Chinese battery giant Lishen, has big dreams for the Buckeye State. Coda announced this morning that it plans to submit an application “soon” for low-interest federal loans. If that funding and an incentive package from Ohio come through, then Coda aims to build a battery factory at one of several sites in the state.

A lot of pieces will have to come together for Coda to go ahead with its scheme to build lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles in Ohio. The startup is just the latest company vying for loans under the Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program (headed up by Jonathan Silver, who we interviewed for this Q&A). So far, two other California-based, venture-backed plug-in vehicle startups — Tesla Motors and Fisker Automotive — have won loan commitments under the program, but Coda faces a long road ahead to secure funding under a program that has drawn more than 100 applications.

Last summer, Coda CEO Kevin Czinger said that the company had requested funds from the DOE along with Lishen and an unnamed U.S. company. Coda later named Connecticut-based Yardney as the partner, and announced that the partners were hoping to get $38.2 million for a lithium-ion battery plant in Connecticut. When those funds did not come through, the pair dropped the project, although Czinger told us today that Coda has, “a continuing R&D program with Yardney and we’re open to long-term business collaborations.”

This time around Coda hopes to set up a plant that would be operated by Lio Energy Systems, Coda’s joint venture with Lishen. According to Coda’s announcement on Tuesday, plans for the Ohio facility call for a replication of the 1 million-square-foot plant that Lio has set up in Tianjin, China, with capacity to crank out more than 20,000 battery packs per year.

Lio won praise from U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke after he toured the Tianjin facility this weekend as an example of an international greentech partnership that “can produce rapid job growth back home and deliver energy solutions abroad.”

The Columbus Dispatch reports that a former Lucent Technologies factory in Columbus, Ohio is “the leading choice” for Coda’s project at this point, and that the startup expects to request $400 million to $500 million from the DOE.

Coda’s manufacturing efforts to date have focused mainly in China. The company spun out of Miles Electric Vehicles last year with plans to initially sell a midrange electric sedan in the U.S. assembled largely from China-built components. In addition, companies based in China, including Lishen and Hafei Motors, worked with Coda throughout the development of the Coda Sedan, slated to launch during the fourth quarter of this year.

That said, Coda also has links to Washington, D.C. Former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who oversaw the government’s bailout negotiations with General Motors (s GM) and Chrysler in 2008, joined a group of investors providing $24 million in Series B funding for Coda last summer. With the close of a $58 million Series C round of financing last week, Coda has now raised a total of more than $125 million.

Coda is looking to expand beyond car making to supply battery technology. Dan Mosher, the startup’s chief financial officer, said at a recent event in San Francisco, Calif. that Coda has been spending a “majority of time” working, along with Lishen, on the design, engineering and pack assembly for its battery system. Mosher told us that eventually, Coda aims to sell batteries for grid storage and for cars from major automakers.

Images courtesy of Coda Automotive

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