• Dec 29th 2009 at 1:01PM
  • 9
All else being equal, Commuter Cars has about a 13 percent chance to win the $2.5 million tandem-seating Alternative Class portion of the Progressive Automotive X Prize with their Tango two-seat electric car. Why, because only seven vehicles are entered in that category and one of the winning considerations will be which vehicle is the fastest – and the Tango is fast. The other six tandems are EDISON2's entry, FVT Racing's eVaro, Spira's Spira4u, TTW Italia's TTW One, and X-Tracer Team Switzerland's E-Tracer 7002 and E-Tracer 7009.

Those are good odds, and it's one of the things keeping the quirky electric car alive. Commuter Cars has only made 11 Tangos – all on special order for people like George Clooney and the founders of Google – and expects that it would cost around $150 million to get the vehicle ready for mass production. The $2.5 million wouldn't cover all of that, but it'd be a boost to get started. At the very least, it's enough to get us some more entertaining snow plow videos. Ready more about what's been happening with Commuter Cars in the Spokesman-Review.

[Source: Spokesman-Review]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      the Tango is an interesting idea and it works quite well except for one fundamental flaw. it is depedent on a heavy keel to be stable and weight is one of 3 key enemies of efficiency. it weighs the same as the now oversized 2010 Audi A4 1.8! so no way Jose.

      Edison2 is pretty close to right design in principle but it's not particularly aesthetic, a bit overly complicated and combustion engine based which is wrong. it has to be foremost electric.

      Spira: cabin trike is not an entirely defective concept although I'd say why not 4 wheels for the full stability but the design... it's just not good enough. looks like a pastry and it's combustion driven. not even close

      eVaro is a reverse trike which can also work but again why not 4. it's well built and nice finish but looks a bit like a 90s race car sheered in half in an accident. its large front results in needless drag and it's built heavy like a conventional car and further wastes energy that way. they did good in electric drive with backup generator. they stuck with too much from the past so it'll probably be too expensive to make plus it looks somewhat ridiculous.

      TTW One is a nice concept that I think could work ok for city transport because of its compact footprint even though it willprobably need side windows when it's cold. tilting looks fun but it's not as straight forward as with a bike because, as I understand it, it has to power the tilting and it has to vary it depending on speed. it is an added complexity and like with a bike it has sluggish emergency maneuvering ability but unlike a bike it wont immediate fall over if the road is slippery or braking hard because it has some static balance even though it will probably fall over in a tight turn. if the price is low and it's an enclosed cabin I think it could work as a city runner but perhaps not for high speed. I think I like it for it's park everywhere ability in cities.

      E-Tracer: a cabin recumbent tandem motorcycle. with training wheels. it looks pretty good but has many flaws. like a motorcycle, in a loss of grip it will fall over. and has poor emergency maneuvering ability because side to side steering transition is slow and the inability to deal with grip loss. it's combustion engine powered which means it's complicated, no doubt expensive, filthy and relatively inefficient especially at slow speed. I'm not quite sure but I'm guessing it's also bad at turning around. I suspect they had highway in mind when choosing the design and nothing else.

      as I predicted when I initially griped about the stupidity of the 10000$ entry fee is that something mediocre would win. something that couldn't really make a difference would get the millions. they failed to realize that the right idea is very rare but incomparably more rare to have the right idea combined with wealth. they should have called for ideas and then awarded the best with money to make it real. then a more worthy design would perhaps have won. mine: www.zev.dk
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'd hate to be in this thing in a cross wind. A couple of unruly kids could tip it over in an instant! Not to mention crash worthiness - at least on a motorcycle you'd get thrown clear!
        • 5 Years Ago
        You obviously know nothing about this vehicle, do you.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Here is an example of NCAP - offset 40 mph impact testing: Smart car v Mercedes Sedan:


        I am all for small cars but it is not enough to build in rigidity such as roll cages - The Mk1 Smart was too rigid and did no absorb impacts well. Before crumple zones we had many more serious traffic injuries as cars were built for strength but not impact eg: Fiat 127 when new was one of the strongest in small car class but not safest.
        • 5 Years Ago
        nottoosmart: Good info and I'm glad someone posted it. My only problem is your assessment of the Smart ForTwo being stable. I live in Wyoming, where wind and weather make driving interesting for 8 months of the year.

        People here commute fairly long distances. A guy here in town commutes 45 miles daily (each way, 90m total) in a Smart. His is the 3-cylinder model rather than the BEV. He only uses it 4-5 months of the year and has to use his pickup truck the rest of the time. He says he would never buy it again as it's not what he bargained for at all. He hoped the advertised 45mpg (it actually gets closer to 50) would be worth the tiny car and money.

        Nope. It sucks on the freeway (90 miles isn't that far when it's all freeway with no traffic) because every semi that passes him blows him around and the slightest gust of wind makes him go white-knuckled. Winds around the freeway routinely get over 40mph and gust much higher in the fall, winter, and spring. On those days, he doesn't drive the Smart.

        On the other hand, there's a considerable weight and weight distribution difference between the gas and electric versions. I don't know the numbers off hand, but I know they're on the order of hundreds of pounds. That would make a difference, obviously.
        • 5 Years Ago
        nottosmart - I see you and LaserRed38 took the bait!

        Well done for your mostly well researched replies.


        If you look at the company website the only thing on stability is a fuzzy video and an attack on a 1960s rear engined, cart spring suspension, and lightweight Fiat 850. The latter, left hand drive car in a steep right had turn will lift the inside wheels just like a Mk1 Mini but they actually handle very well when driven correctly (in this case use the handbrake!).

        So, for a company webpage, not very scientific.

        Please define "most sports cars" The Alfa SZ and BMW Z1 were capable of sustained 1 G turns (unmodified road cars on standard tyres).

        Aerodynamics above 40mph: Clearly the car is designed for efficiency and low frontal area, As for low CofG and 3150lbs (which is an issue for efficiency) - your answer gives static rollover figure - i.e: still on a dry steep slope. Fine for parking, but that says nothing about real world 50 knot x-wind at highway speeds whilst passing an articulated truck. The lift generated by the tall body in the yawing plane will depend on relative airflow (angle of attack). Any steering into wind will reduce the ability of the chassis to cope.

        Moose/Elk test: Unlike auto-tests like that shown in the aforementioned video, the standard elk-avoidance tests which requires a sudden sharp swerve at high speed in the wet. Even the hugely well engineered 2005 BMW 5 series (3428lbs curb weight, track 61.3" front, 62.3" rear) failed this test when loaded. Reasons may include the run flat tyres or ESP reaction rates.

        The first "A" series Mercedes (another relatively tall, narrow design) had major suspension changes after failing this basic safety test.

        Most highways are rutted with camber, a lack of track means the handling will be more suseptible to potholes and uneven surfaces leading to sudden changes of direction.

        So some figures for polar moments of interia and side load/lift distribution from a windtunnel would benefit your arguments.

        Crash Tests:

        Yes road death stats for motorcycles show they more dangerous than cars in collisions (except on race tracks where all the traffic tends to go the same way and many riders have been thrown clear like a friend whose ZZR600 ended 10 feet up in the tree and he walked away). My point is how is this car as safe as other road cars when there is so little crumple zone or space around the occupants body. It might be like a fighter jet cockpit but those have ejector seats!

        As for road accidents - I have lost loved several ones from a 9 year old nephew who was run over by a Pick up truck whilst coming home form school to a 33 year old cousin who was a brilliant driver who's Ford Mondeo suffered a power steering fault on the highway (Ford brought in recalls later). Other friends lost their lives in vehicle to vehicle impacts.

        Smart cars are fun but they are not as safe (in an impact) as their owners sometimes believe. As a race car developer I know roll cages add torsional rigidity and will improve roll over crash survivability but they do not embue a car with a better NCAP rating.

        As I said before I am all for small cars. SUVs are clogging up the streets across he pond despite their being uneconomic. Even "small cars" from the major car makers have been getting heavier and bigger for the past 10 years.

        I wish people were encouraged to reduce both road footprint and CO2 footprint but down sizing. But I am playing devil's advocate when it comes to the common US driver's argument about road safety. Big cars and trucks still occupy most of the real-estate.

        If this is a prototype for the X prize then all the best and whether the team win or not I hope they will look into the other concerns soon.

        • 5 Years Ago
        "I'd hate to be in this thing in a cross wind."
        Wrong! "Because of the batteries and sometimes 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 degrees which is approximately the same as a 911 Porsche. In fact, despite its narrow footprint, the Tango has stability that exceeds that of most sport cars."

        "A couple of unruly kids could tip it over in an instant!"
        Wrong! "Weight: 3,150 lbs."

        "Not to mention crash worthiness - at least on a motorcycle you'd get thrown clear!"
        Wrong! "The rider was thrown clear and critically hurt when the motorcycle crashed into a tree." "A term often used in the emergency department for motorcycle is "donorcycle" and appropriately so, the death rate per year for motorcycle riders due to accidents is 1 in 50. "

        "You obviously know nothing about this vehicle, do you."

        Then you use smart cars as a good/bad example, which I happen to drive, to back up your baseless accusations. A tow truck driver told me how well smarts do in accidents, very few injuries. First hand information, not conjecture. Obviously their active restraint systems are working as advertised. You should try a little research before issuing off the cuff remarks. It's alright I experience this sort of bias all the time.

        A co-worker criticized my first car as a death trap 25 years ago. It was a Nissan Stanza. Three months later he was killed in car accident. His booze cruiser was no match for compactor falling off a flat bed. The Stanza wouldn't have faired any better, but such is fate.

        My next car was a Toyota Tercel, followed by a Pontiac Firefly and now a smart Fortwo. Do you see a trend? And I'm still alive and kicking. I stopped riding a motorcycle after the third or forth car made a left turn right in front of me. Real world experience, not hypothetical scenarios. A friends nephew was killed in an SUV rollover, when the roof collapsed on him. I can go on and on, but I know many people still rely on preconceived notions of what is safe and what isn't, regardless of facts. You are not alone.

        This is AutoblogGreen however and we expect a higher standard. Please do some research before commenting.
        • 5 Years Ago
        As we say in aerospace - if it looks right it will fly right. The same goes for roadworthiness and crashworthiness - NCAP rating is not likely to be very good. All the best with economy but let's also consider practicality and safety issues.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Tango will not win. Even at 27,000$ it still would be too expensive (ca. 20k$ to pay). And for that, it will never hit the market. The winner will be a car that can hit the showrooms in 2011. My types are:

      Mainstream Class: Edison2 Very Light Vehicle (gasoline)
      Alternative Side-by-side: TW4XP (human-electric, the only that employs human power)
      Alternative tandem: TTW One (CNG?)

      Best Urban Commuter: TTW One
      Technical Award: Edison2

      I assume that not more then 12 vehicles will finish the race as "PIAXP Certified".
      BTW - you, Americans, like the silly "100 mpg" instead of "21 kWh per 100 km".
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