What would Buddha drive?
July 27, 2003 10:19 AM   Subscribe

The Tango is an electric concept car developed by father and son team Rick and Bryan Woodbury, which gets 80 miles per charge and does 0 to 60 in four seconds, with a top speed of 130 mph. Says Rick, who used to race Porsches and has been initiated as a Zen priest, "As far as getting rid of war and nuclear weapons, solving the world's hunger problem, that would be great, but I have no idea how. This car, we know how. We've done it. And if 50 million Americans started driving Tangos, the world would be better."
posted by homunculus (40 comments total)
Twenty grand once it's in mass production -- I'd buy one. Although I'd take a little less acceleration and speed in exchange for more distance per charge.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 10:49 AM on July 27, 2003

You can have both (speed and range) but for a price! KAZ!!!
posted by kodas at 11:37 AM on July 27, 2003

Looking at the Tango, I have a huge urge to run at it and tip it over, ala cow tipping.
posted by jpburns at 11:39 AM on July 27, 2003

tango. that starts with "t" and stands for terrorist.
posted by quonsar at 11:39 AM on July 27, 2003

Thanks homun, it's been posted to metafilter a long time ago but the article was a good read and a fascinating look into the company. Oh, and they respond well to emails.
The model that would sell for 20 grand would be slower (i think they were saying something like 0-60 in 7 or 8 seconds instead of four (oh, darn)), but i dont' know how the range was.
This would probably be the only car that would stop me from buying an Rx-7 in two years (i just started working and am saving). i've got my fingers seriously crossed that it continues to get more coverage.
posted by NGnerd at 11:40 AM on July 27, 2003

Considering it weighs 3000 lbs I hope you're driving a locomotive at it to tip it over :) On the other hand, if you ever get it to roll over I'd watch your head. (the safety page didn't have as many neat-o numbers s oI skipped it, obviously)
posted by Space Coyote at 12:09 PM on July 27, 2003

Too bad it looks like Voltron poop.
posted by rusty at 12:48 PM on July 27, 2003

Very, very cool.
When considering it's applications you have to realize that it is only a worthwhile option for people who have more than one car for their household, and can afford to spend $20,000 on a car with limited applications.
You also have to realize that is still a pretty large market.
posted by Wingy at 12:55 PM on July 27, 2003

it might not go over in the home of the s.u.v. but it might fly in europe like the smart.

i'd get a tango or a smart tomorrow if they were for sale here.
posted by birdherder at 1:30 PM on July 27, 2003

If I owned that car, I'm sure that everyday I'd say,

... nevermind."
posted by jpburns at 1:36 PM on July 27, 2003

The popularity of the Smart cars that birdherder mentioned was eye-opening when I visited Italy. Considering how difficult it is to park and maneuver in New York, it's criminal that city/commuting oriented two-seaters of this kind aren't being marketed here.

The electric car thing is a tougher sell here -- if you park on the street, and don't have an electric-charging station nearby, it's hard to know how you'd keep your Tango feuled up. But if they could solve that problem, it'd be perfect for city driving.
posted by BT at 2:25 PM on July 27, 2003

I looked at it and thought, AWESOME, but then I saw the range. *sigh* I definitely would have to wait for the 150 mile range one since my commute is about 100 miles or so a day. That would really suck to get stuck.
posted by Plunge at 2:57 PM on July 27, 2003

Sorry to be party pooper, but this is just a two seater powered by lead acid batteries - very, very old technology.

Since none of the gazillion other design ever won market success, odds are, since there apears to be nothing new here, that this won't either.

Start here for some history on the subject ...
posted by Jos Bleau at 3:08 PM on July 27, 2003

Old technology may be a selling point. Getting the electric bootstrapped into the US marketplace has been difficult. Familiarity of lead-acid may help convince pioneers to consider the vehicle.

Price & range are much more important. The old Volkswagon bugs still running around are a big clue in my view. They sold for what, 1/5 of the average price of a new car at the time? Even forsaking heaters -- which made them damn cold in the midwest winters!!
posted by Twang at 3:40 PM on July 27, 2003

Jos, i'd completely disagree with you. The approach is what's so different with this vehicle, not the power supply. The fact that it is a car ment simply for a daily commute (meaning it's diminuitive size) and also the fact that this has performance that beats most sportscars at several times it's cost (0-60 in 4 seconds is outrageous). It has what so many other projects lacked: jaw droping surprise factor.

however, i do wonder how often and at what cost the batteries will need to be replaced.
posted by NGnerd at 4:10 PM on July 27, 2003

It's a great idea. But it's as ugly as sin. I like my cars to have a bit of character to them, a bit of attractiveness. The Tango has none. Neither does the Smart, and the Honda and Toyota environmental machines don't have much either.

What really gets me is that one of the Tango developers used to race Porsches - he should *know* what a good looking car is! Instead, he's designed a tall, skinny box on wheels.
posted by tomcosgrave at 4:25 PM on July 27, 2003

Don't get me wrong - I'm rooting for these guys to succeed.

But the Tango can't do anything that the MARS II wasn't doing in 1968 - with 4 seats, not less.

I certainly hope the market has changed and is now more receptive - my point is that since this is old tech it has been tried time and time again without market success.

Given the fact the the Tango folks don't bring anything new to the table, they are really betting on changing times rather than better technology.

I hope they lead a revolution - but it's most likely you see the Tango next for sale on a updated version of the page that I linked to in this post an not on a dealer's lot ...
posted by Jos Bleau at 4:26 PM on July 27, 2003

I guess total cost of ownership of this car is the big issue.
Let's suppose it goes in mass production

1) total cost of ownership must be < TCO of 2,3,4,5 seats car , else it would only win a marginal market

2) the range is very limited ; looks better in the future with hydrogen cells

3)the recharge time is long : recharge time of fossil fuel car : less then 5 minutes ; again, screams from hydrogen refueling

4)the loading capacity seems minimal: not good for today grocery packaging , not good for "soccer moms". 2 seats seems a minimum.

5) mass transit is much less flexible, yet very efficient and surely more efficient than 1 seat car, probably even from an energy per capita consumption point of view.

Yet, I like the concept. Damn I'd even buy segway if it wasn't so damn expensive.
posted by elpapacito at 4:29 PM on July 27, 2003

Make that "That's $100 per battery * 25 every 80K miles, if you only discharge them 25% per cycle.".
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:35 PM on July 27, 2003

Do they seriously think a) putting 50 million new, 1,000 pound lead acid battery units in circulation, and b) shifting fossil fuel consumption into grandfathered, EPA-exempt coal burning power plants, is a good idea for the environment?
posted by coelecanth at 7:15 PM on July 27, 2003

The most practical alternative transportation device is ... still a small car with a small gasoline-powered internal combustion engine. But even if the federal government was to jack up CAFE, the vast majority of the driving public here in the US simply isn't interested in driving one. Size and power are all people are interested in these days, and it will remain that way until the price of gasoline rises significantly. Gasoline taxes should be slowly but steadily increased until people have a reason to want efficient (and therefore cleaner) vehicles. But that's unlikely under any administration and inconceivable under the current one.
posted by pmurray63 at 7:58 PM on July 27, 2003

Along the lines of what coelecanth said, the whole idea of cars such as these truly being "zero-emission" is laughable. I cannot see how the emissions are less than the average efficient petrol-powered vehicle when you factor in the losses in transferring energy from a power station through the grid and into the batteries, then from the batteries to the motors. Not to mention the batteries themselves.

Still, I applaud the efforts of this company to get some excitement into environmentally-aware transportation. Everything has to start somewhere.
posted by dg at 8:04 PM on July 27, 2003

If the aim here was to create some kind of eco-car, these guys have missed the mark by several miles. The idea of using the weight of the batteries to keep a car that narrow stable in the corners is ingenious, but at what cost? It weighs 100lbs more than a VW Golf GTI, yet carries what - one 200lb passenger plus luggage. Do you think it takes any less power to accelerate this thing to 60 in 4 seconds than it would a (3060lb) Ferrari 360? The power has to come from somewhere. A Smart car weighs in at 1600lbs BTW.
posted by pascal at 8:21 PM on July 27, 2003

It really does need to look like a Mini-cooper and not a roller skate.
posted by mecran01 at 9:46 PM on July 27, 2003

I already have a close to zero emission vehicle that costs next to nothing and can easly handle 20-40km commutes on one charge. Easy to park too.

It is called a bicycle.
posted by srboisvert at 9:54 PM on July 27, 2003

first question i thought of when i saw this car - why would you put 2 doors on a car this small that only has one seat? isn't a driver's side door sufficient?
posted by suprfli at 1:16 AM on July 28, 2003

coelecanth and dg, what you are talking about is referred to as "upstream emissions". They've done studies on upstream emissions and have proven that EVs are cleaner even when taking upstream emissions into account (at least this is true in California). Also, which is easier to regulate - millions of tailpipes or several central power stations?

If you think it is inefficient to transport power several hundred miles over wires, how efficient do you think it is to transport oil halfway around the world? Not to mention that oil refineries are some of the biggest electricity users - the same electricity that comes from those grandfathered coal-burning plants.

Lead-acid batteries are another matter. I wish they would use the NiMH batteries - these are very environmentally clean.
posted by fishbrando at 1:46 AM on July 28, 2003

0-100 in 4 seconds?

Gotta love those broad-powerband electromagnetic motors. With acc like that it's a good thing it's bottom-heavy, or else it would be doing wheelies from here to next recharge.
posted by spazzm at 3:12 AM on July 28, 2003

why would you put 2 doors on a car this small that only has one seat?

So you can get out of the car if it tips over with the driver's side down.

Put me in with the people who think it's ugly as sin.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:38 AM on July 28, 2003

Give me 500 miles a refill, 100mph top speed, 0-60 in under 8 seconds, and don't force me to practically replace the engine every 30k miles (or batteries, but still), and I'd bite. The cost per mile is still a lot cheaper than gas -- I think they mentioned 30% more efficient than hybrids, but about even with hybrids in California, where energy is more expensive (thanks, deregulation!).

I think the real catalyst for sales will be when the range is as long as a regular car and the refill/recharge time is in the same ballpark. Even two or three times longer than traditional gasoline would be fine, but right now batteries are an order of magnitude longer to recharge. That might be workable in a city, where I'd imagine these would sell best, but it's completely impractical in the other 95% of this country.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:26 AM on July 28, 2003

If this thing cost under $10,000, I think it could be a good seller. You have to trade off cost for lack of range and storage space. Why bother with a Tango at $20k when you could have a car with neither of these limitations?

If I just want something to take me to work and back in a typical city, and maybe pick up a couple of groceries now and then, this is an ideal solution at a lower price. They have to do something about the frequent battery replacement issue, and maybe extend the range to about 120 miles in the base model, but I think it's a great start.
posted by mzanatta at 9:11 AM on July 28, 2003

If this thing cost under $10,000, I think it could be a good seller.

For around ten grand you can get one of the entry-level Korean cars (Accent or Rio) and still have none of the limitations of the Tango. Heck, I only paid $14,500 for my Elantra GT and I think that even if the Tango cost $10,000 and had a longer range, I'd still pick the Elantra.

Like all micro-sized "commuter cars," the Tango is a motorcycle for people who think motorcycles are not enclosed enough. (In the case of the Tango, the appeal is further limited to those who believe motorcycles are not heavy enough and not electric enough.)
posted by kindall at 10:49 AM on July 28, 2003

A lot of people seem to be missing the point. The Tango isn't meant to replace cars, it's meant to be used for commuting back and forth from work. It doesn't NEED to go hundreds of miles between refills. You drive it back and forth to work, get groceries, whatever, then plug it in at night. You never have to refill it in the sense you seem to be thinking of. If you don't take it on a car trip, and remember to plug it in at night, you will never run out of fuel.

For car trips, use a different car. That is all, thank you.
posted by Hildago at 12:46 PM on July 28, 2003

The VW TDI Lupo gets 100 mpg and it's not even a hybrid.
posted by mecran01 at 11:33 PM on July 28, 2003

Hildago's buying us all second cars! Woohoo!
posted by kindall at 12:13 AM on July 29, 2003

My question is, how am I supposed to have sex in the back seat of that thing?
posted by nath at 12:22 AM on July 29, 2003

My very belated and yet immediate thought upon seeing the Tango: it can't clear a speedbump.
posted by swerve at 6:01 PM on July 29, 2003

how am I supposed to have sex in the back seat of that thing?
posted by dg at 6:22 PM on July 29, 2003

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