The next generation of electric cars have been in gestation for several years, as evidenced by Commuter Cars Corporation’s Tango T600. This is probably the most unique battery-powered car design yet seen. This car is 39″ wide, 8’5″ long, and 60″ tall. It is designed to seat two, with the passenger behind the driver. Because it’s narrow, and because it’s so small, it can split lanes like a motorcycle, and it can park perpendicular to the curb in spots only motorcycles would ordinarily fit.
These specifications, applied to a car with four wheels, give the Tango an unusual appearance, and nothing that might automatically be associated with high performance. But the Tango is designed for speed. Its battery pack puts out 2,000 amps at 375 volts, and its engine can draw well over 600 kilowatts. By contrast the Tesla Roadster draws under 200 kilowatts. This car may look like a golf cart, but it drives like a racing bike. The company claims it will do 0-60 in 4.0 seconds, the quarter mile in 12.0 seconds, and top out over 150 mph.
Unlike the Tesla Roadster, which uses a conventional Lotus chassis and therefore automatically passes many of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, the Tango T600 is assembled as a kit. This isn’t to say it’s not safe. The Tango is narrow, but it has an extremely low center of gravity. When I spoke today with their President, Rick Woodbury, he said the Tango has a center of gravity of 56 degrees, comparable to a Porsche 911, and that it could remain stable up to a 1.5 gravity turn.
Furthering occupant safety, the Tango is also equipped with a roll cage and “more steel in the doors than a Volvo,” according to Woodbury, who also said “the car is designed for 200 MPH collisions.” So if you want to zoom through traffic like a motorcycle, you can, but you will also be far better protected than the average motorcycle rider. Best of both worlds.
Range for the Tango varies because they are offering different battery packs. With lead acid batteries, depending on usage, the range is 40-80 miles. With nickel metal hydride batteries, the range increases to 80-160. With lithium ion batteries, the range can go over 300 miles, more than the Tesla.
Currently Commuter Cars Corp. has sold one Tango T600 and have six ordered and under construction. These prototypes cost over $100,000 each. They claim they have sourced a lithium ion battery using lithium polymers in a single string. Woodbury said they were definitely “not using laptop batteries.”
It will be interesting to see if a car like this can take off. Commuter Cars Corp. is taking orders for less expensive production versions of their car which will come safety rated instead of as kits. These cars, the T200 and the T100, are listed on their ordering page at $39,900 and $18,700 respectively. Woodbury says they have about 100 orders so far, and will probably be able to begin production once their order volume tops 1,000 or so. If Commuter Cars Coporation eventually can deliver a T100 for under $20,000, a car with this speed and handling may well find its niche.