Can a car this narrow really be safe?
Looks are deceiving, because the Tango is arguably the safest car on the road!
We believe that the most important safety feature of a car is its ability to avoid an accident in the first place. With 2,000 lbs of weight under the floor (achieving a 5-star NHTSA-calculated rollover threshold) the Tango was able to negotiate the emergency lane change maneuver—(Moose Test)—conducted by Consumer Reports at the Automotive X-Prize competition in 2010, at a higher speed than any other car or motorcycle tested. What this means to you, is that you can get out of trouble, or avoid an accident better than any other car. Barely over half as wide as a typical car, the likelihood of a head-on is reduced dramatically. If, for example, you're next to a semi truck that moves into your lane, with all of the extra room to move over, and the extra acceleration, you can get out of the way better than any other car in existence. Furthermore, the extreme weight to size ratio, as compared with other vehicles, makes it less affected by wind, or turbulence created by semis.
The Tango's race car roll cage was designed by Prodrive, famous for their management of the BAR Formula One team, and multiple world rally championships in the Subaru WRX which they designed.
The Tango cage design was submitted to FIA (Federation Internationale de L'Automobile) for certification, which it passed. Consequently, the Tango cage is precisely the structure required for racecars exceeding 200 mph. Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) requires a single removable door bar to be held by 3/8" pins in double shear. The Tango has double this requirement, with two additional horizontal bars, with specially-designed hinges machined from billet stainless steel. In addition to those there are four vertical bar segments forming a structure that ties the single factory bar to the 2 additional horizontal bars. There are literally over four times more side door protection bars than found in the largest SUVs.
Doors are also thicker than on a typical car because of the added roll cage protection. Having windows on both sides, making both sides the driver's side, increases visibility and reduces blind spots.
How fast can the Tango maneuver?
In terms of maneuverability, the Tango has the ability to quickly move out of the way in case of emergency, even fitting between other cars and lanes. It also has an instantaneous and powerful acceleration, better than almost any other car. It brakes quickly, so the maneuverability to avoid a collision is probably better than any other car as well. Even though a motorcycle has an equally small footprint, it cannot be maneuvered as quickly if an unexpected object comes into its path. This is because a motorcycle has to countersteer in order to react to an emergency, which costs valuable reaction time. Motorcycles do extremely well racing on road courses where they can plan ahead, but that is far different from reacting to an emergency situation.
What about rollover potential?
Rollover is a great danger for many vehicles and the Tango, being so narrow, might appear to be unstable. However, because of the batteries and additional ballast just 4" off of the ground, the Tango has achieved a NHTSA 5-star equivalent static rollover threshold rating. This is approximately 56%—or as an example, about the same as a 911 Porsche. In fact, the Tango has stability that exceeds that of most sports cars.
Will I get a ticket if I park perpendicular to the curb in parallel parking spaces?
This depends on local ordinances, however, the San Francisco and Los Angeles parking departments stated that even if four Tangos and/or motorcycles fit in a metered parking space, as long as the meter was paid, all would be legal. However, if the meter had expired, all four would be ticketed.
I like it but I'm claustrophobic. Won't I feel closed in?
Even though the Tango appears so small from the exterior as compared to other cars, that is only because of the lack of a passenger side seat beside the driver. Actually, the distance from the center of the steering wheel to the inside door panel is 1/2" more than a Subaru Outback, and only 1/2" less than a Dodge Ram pickup. You also have windows next to you on both sides, increasing your vision.
I'm 6'3", this doesn't seem practical. And how can anyone fit in the back seat?
Leg room and head room are far more ample than may appear. A 6-foot 10, 325-lb man at the San Francisco Auto Show said that he was comfortable in the Tango. Typically, two 6-foot 6-inch folks can fit comfortably, depending on torso to leg ratio. The reason the back seat space is deceiving is due to the fact that the rear passenger straddles the driver’s seat. The legs of even the tallest persons fit on either side of the seat.
How difficult is it to complete construction of the kit?
The first few Tangos in Australia will be sold as kits. They will be imported without drivetrain, motors, wheels, or axles, but may include battery if desired. The components needed to complete the Tango are available from various volume suppliers. Mazda Miata axles, brakes, and wheels can be purchased locally. Motors are off-the-shelf from Advanced DC, or if AC drive is preferred, HPEVS makes AC motors that will fit nicely in the direct drive system. Once all of the components are at hand, the construction can be accomplished in a few days by most any mechanic, with some work needing be done by a machine shop. If one chooses to build one's own battery pack, allow a couple of extra weeks. Once assembled, an application for an ICV (Individually Constructed Vehicle) approval is needed and and a certified ICV approved engineer will be required to complete the process before the Tango can be registered.
If at least a few Tango kits per year are purchased in Australia, we will apply for an Ultra-Low Volume Vehicle certification, which will allow us to sell completed Tangos for up to 50 per year, or simply Low Volume Vehicle certification, up to 500 per year, just as we are able to do in the UK under IVA (Individual Vehicle Approval) regulations. Of course the object of this low-volume exercise is to solve traffic congestion, and that will of course require manufacturing Tangos with airbags and all crash test requirements under Australian Design Rules (ADR). We hope that Australia will be interested in the high-volume manufacturing of a low-cost Tango for the average commuter.
Why is it so expensive?
Despite the low-volume cost, a Tango kit is actually quite inexpensive compared to other cars of its performance and volume of production. As a one-off, there are over $100k in parts, and labor is approximately $40k per kit body. The balance of parts to construct a Tango can be had for under $50k. The rest goes to overhead, engineering for improvements and continuing upgrades for our customers, as well as supporting our 10-year, unlimited, mileage warranty. The entire chassis and battery box are made of stainless steel so they can never rust out. The carbon fiber body panels are also impervious to rust or decay. It would be hard to find a more durable car for any amount of money. Please see "Buy, Lease, Rent" page for estimated price to volume ratios.
Is the Tango expensive to maintain?
Other than brake pads, tires, coolant and windshield washer fluid, there is little else that needs any maintenance. The Headway battery is predicted by the manufacturer to last 2,000 cycles at 100% depth of discharge. That is roughly 200,000 miles. At that time the battery is predicted to have only 80% of its original capacity. Today's cost on the cells by themselves is $15,000 for the 32 kWhr pack. Assuming that they can be replaced for that amount at the end of their life, that works out to $.07 a mile for battery replacement. Even if they only last half that long, the cost of battery replacement and electricity combined still competes well with today's cost of gasoline. The rest of the car should last for millions of miles. There is only one moving part in each motor. Many electric motors that have been running machinery, 3 shifts a day, for over 50 years, are still running today.
How easy is it to charge?
The Tango can be charged from any receptacle, as it comes with a number of adapter cords. New ones can be created in minutes from less than $30 of parts from any hardware store. It comes standard with a NEMA 14-50, as typically used for household ranges and in RV parks. It also comes with the latest J1772 inlet that works with thousands of public charge stations throughout the world. The charger is on-board, and can be set to any current from 1 to 40 amps so as not to trip the circuit breaker. It can also charge from any voltage from 100V to 250V without any adjustment.
How long does it take to charge?
With the on-board 40A charger running at capacity, range is extended approximately 25 miles for every hour of charging. Using a 50-Amp circuit breaker to a simple outlet directly, allows charging at full capacity of 40 Amps. To fill a 32 kWhr pack from empty, the bulk of the charge would be complete in 4 hours, which is followed by an equalization charge that adds little to the range, but makes sure that every one of the 100 cell blocks is topped off. Most of the public charge stations using the J1772 EVSE (Electric Vehicle Service Equipment) are limited to 30 Amps. If these are used, the charger needs to be turned down to 30 Amps, consequently increasing charge time by 33%. Some EVSEs only have roughly half of that capacity as they were designed for the Nissan Leaf, or Chevy Volt, which can only charge at 18 Amps. Even so, I've found that most Nissan dealers and public stations can accommodate 30 Amps.
Charging from 15 Amps at 110V is also possible, however it will take approximately 24 hours to fill a 32 kWhr pack from empty or, stated in more useful terms, you would get 4 or 5 miles of range for each hour of charging.
How much range can I expect?
That depends primarily on which battery pack you choose. Range from 80 to 200 miles of freeway driving at 70 mph is available. Li-ion (LiFePO4) packs range from 25.6 kWhrs to over 60 kWhrs. They are available in either high-power, or high-energy configurations. For example, for maximum power, an 80 Ah pack will give the quickest 0-60 time, just a few 10th of a second faster than the energy cells, but there would be a penalty of nearly 20% to the Tango’s range.
For an occasional long trip, a generator trailer running on any fuel could be attached to the Tango’s trailer hitch, giving the same range as any gasoline car.
Surprisingly, we found that a 3,900-ft grade did not significantly affect range, despite not having regenerative braking, as long as we came back down the same grade. With an 80 Ah pack, (25.6 kWhrs) that has an 80 mile range at 70 mph, we drove with 2 people from our office to the top of Mt. Spokane and back—a total of 78.6 miles, and a 3,900-ft climb. The meter showed 75.2 Ahs used and the fuel gauge showed 6%, which was precise to the 10th of a mile, predicting a total range of 83.6 miles.
I've heard that range or fuel gauges on electric cars are very inaccurate. Is this true of the Tango?
We believe that the Tango has the simplest and most accurate fuel gauge. Having put nearly 12,000 miles on a Nissan Leaf now, we have experienced the difference in philosophy on fuel gauges. The table below gives a real world example of how the Tango reports its range as compared with the Nissan Leaf. The Leaf uses past performance to predict the future. There is no way that a car can predict what lies ahead. It can only work on history. To illustrate this, imagine that you've been driving for 50 miles at 70 mph on a freeway that is relatively level. You know that you are now going to have to climb a steep grade for 4,000 ft. The car's computer has no way of knowing that. Even if it used sat-nav which none of them do, it wouldn’t know whether you were about to make a turn off, and maybe return before going up the grade. This is where human intuition is far better than a computer. The table below also shows the difference in range calculation between the T600 and the Leaf. We believe that if you know that your range is calculated based on 70 mph on level ground, that you can easily calculate in your mind how much to add or subtract from that range, based on upcoming grades, up or down, climate control usage, and anticipated speed. Note that in the example below, there is a range column for the Tango. (If you are using the typical 32 kWhr/100Ah battery pack, 1% = 1 mile of range at 70 mph, so no adjustment is necessary. If, however, you were to use the pack that is in the example car, it could easily be programmed to start at 80, showing range at 70mph instead of %, if you are more comfortable with that. Also, if choosing the 200-mile pack, the number could count down from 200.) You judge, based on a set standard, rather than being in the dark wondering what your computer thinks you are about to do. Note that in the Leaf, its range indication showed an increase during the first couple miles of driving. This is not because it's broken, but rather because it is constantly recalculating during those miles. Note too, that after getting to the bottom of the mountain, it predicted that I had 41 miles of range remaining based on the long downhill drive previous. It actually had 25.8 miles of range remaining for normal town driving. Had I relied on this, I would have been left on the side of the road 15 miles short of my destination. The Tango by contrast, showed 30 vs 29 actual. I believe that by studying the chart, you'll agree that the Tango's fuel gauge is as accurate and intuitive as it can possibly be.
What if I leave the country for 6 months and forget to plug my Tango in. Does the Tango become a "Brick" with a destroyed battery pack?
The Tango is protected against this. After 4.5 days it automatically goes into hibernate mode, which completely disconnects both the main traction battery pack and the auxiliary 12V battery from any parasitic loads whatsoever. You never need to worry about destroying your battery pack by forgetting to plug in, or leaving it unattended for many months. After being in "Awake Mode" for four days before going into hibernate, it uses up about 5% of a 32 kWhr pack. It will require 7.2 Amp hours to recharge it to full again, including cell balancing. That means that as long as you have over 5% state of charge when leaving the Tango, it is unlikely to cause damage. Of course, it's recommended that you leave the batteries full when going away for an extended trip, and you can always put it into hibernate manually so it doesn't have to wait to go automatically.
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