Monday, August 09, 2004

A Little Car That Could Change Things

Several days ago, I ran across some news blurbs about a little commuter car called the Tango 600. Since then, I've been unable to get it off my mind. At first glance it looks like other specialized commuter car. It's a little two seater that takes up about as space on the road or in a parking lot as a motorcycle (it's a tandem, not side by side.) Its proportions are tall, narrow and cartoonish. It's an electric car with a quoted range of about 80 miles. You may be wondering what makes a car like this stick with my thoughts like it has.

A quick visit to the website and a glance at the specs told me that I wanted one (and the $85k price tag told me I won't likely ever have one.) This is definitely a different spin on the commuter car. It seems that in the past little electric commuter cars have simply been spartan little responsible vehicles intended to get you to work and home as efficiently as possible. This is a recipe for yawns. Obviously, this not the most effective way to get someone to pay big money for a new type of vehicle that has a short range and little chance of refueling away from home. The Tango uses a different strategy to get itself sold. It may look funny, but it's godawful fast. It's not as light as you might think, with all of its lead-acid for power storage. It weighs as much as your average gasoline powered economy car. However, you will not find very many Civics producing 1000 foot pounds of torque at the wheels (that's right, three zeros.) What's more, that's from an electric motor, so 1000 foot pounds start at 0 RPM and don't give out until it reaches its top speed. That means performance numbers like 0-60 in 4 seconds and the standing quarter mile in 12 seconds at 120 mph. For you non-car-enthusiast types out there, that's supercar territory. It also supposedly handles quite well as shown in the autocross footage on the web site. There is very little lean to the tall car even during hard cornering on race tires.

This car, unlike many electric cars of the past (although I'll admit that I haven't researched this topic much) is not a golf cart modified for the street. It is a fun car that is fast and furious enough enough (sorry for the reference) to earn itself some credibility among buyers and other drivers, which is the only way I see this sort of car surviving (especially at that price range.)

At the risk of throwing out an idea and not explaining it adequately, I can definately see this as the pocket rocket of the future (thank VW for the original GTI.) Hopped up econo boxes made small cars more palatable. Maybe this (if production numbers go up and prices go down enough) could do the same for "zero emission vehicles"


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