DETROIT – Eager for space on the ground floor of the emerging market for electric vehicles, Commuter Cars Corp. displays at this year’s North American International Auto Show its 2-seat Tango, which looks a lot like a tiny Smart but is half as wide.
That’s because the Tango aligns its two seats one in front of the other, rather than side by side, like in the Smart car. But unlike the Smart, the Tango is a dedicated EV, capable of 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in about 4 seconds and a quarter-mile (0.4 km) sprint in about 12 seconds.
The Tango already is on the road in parts of the U.S. and is available for order worldwide. The price is an eye-popping $105,000, plus the expense of the battery that can cost tens of thousands of dollars, depending on its size and energy density.
The car is shipped as a kit and requires assembly, which takes about eight hours, the company says.
Rick Woodbury, president of Commuter Cars, understands the high price is a significant barrier, so he is seeking partners willing to invest in the company, enabling more rapid production of vehicles to drive down the sticker price.
Woodbury says the average commute uses just 4 kWh, about the same amount of electricity used to power a 1,500-watt portable heater for 2.5 hours. At $0.10 per kWh and gasoline at $3.00 a gallon, the Tango’s equivalent fuel efficiency exceeds 150 mpg (1.6 L/100 km), or $0.02 a mile.
With the most expensive lithium-ion batteries, a range of 200 miles (322 km) is possible, he says.
Woodbury is convinced the Tango will meet the vast majority of commuter needs. The U.S. Bureau of Transportation says 90% of all automobile trips are single occupant, and the average round trip is 20 miles (32 km).
Although the Tango makes a compelling fuel-economy argument, its high center of gravity and narrow stance would discourage hard cornering. But Woodbury says the car is extremely stable, with 2,000 lbs. (907 kg) – most of it batteries – placed under the floor.
Commuter Cars says the Tango’s static rollover threshold is equivalent to a 5-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Admin., placing it in the company of low-slung sports cars.