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Inspiration for the Tango
In about 1982, I was stuck in traffic in Los Angeles and noticed only one person in each car around me. I contemplated how many millions are stuck in my situation every day and just seem numb to it--a frustration without a solution. I thought about what would be the solution. It was obvious that length of a vehicle was much less important than width for increasing freeway lane capacity in cars per hour. Making a car half as wide, or able to fit in a half lane with adequate clearance would allow a doubling of lane capacity. Shortening a car would make a much smaller difference because most of the real estate used by a car is the space in front for braking reaction time and braking distance. Since roughly 90% of all cars have one person in them, why would people choose a wide car for most of their trips, given the choice?
It occurred to me of course that a narrow car would tip over in cornering. Being a casual Porsche race driver at the time, I was quite aware of the relation of lateral G forces and center of mass. I've been an advocate of hydrogen fuel for cars since 1975 when I first read about them in a Brazilian magazine. I knew that although an internal-combustion-engined car would be hard to ballast enough for stability, a hydrogen car using iron-titanium hydride or a similar carrier for the hydrogen would make great ballast for stabilizing a narrow car.
I stewed on this for nearly 20 years wondering when a car company would figure this out. I remember speaking with Peter Schutz and Helmut Bott, Porsche's president and chief engineer at the time about hydrogen. They said that it was a 20 year project, and that they could only afford to work on 5-year projects at Porsche.
Almost exactly 20 year later I learned of the progress being made at Daimler-Benz, and their planned purchase of Ballard stock, a hydrogen fuel cell company. Many things came together at that time that catalyzed my son and I building a prototype narrow car that ran on batteries just to prove our theory. We originally thought that batteries wouldn't have enough range and that our work was to prepare for hydrogen power. We learned quickly though that batteries were much more than sufficient for the average commute. In fact, because the Tango was not trying to be everything to everybody, only appealing to 90% of all trips, that inexpensive lead-acid batteries would be sufficient. As we built and developed our proof-of-concept vehicle, we found it to be more and more valid. Little by little we raised capital to advance the design to the point where it is today.
Two Tangos sharing a lane at 65 mph is the cover art for the Government publication going out to over 200,000 decision makers all over Europe. Please see linked 4-page article:This article demonstrates how for less than 1/10th the cost and 1/10th the time, transportation infrastructure problems similar to the Boston Big Dig could be solved by simply giving away commuter cars like the Tango. Furthermore, as Auckland, NZ city council member Toa Greening points out, it could be done at no long-term cost at all, but would rather be an investment th... more »
Auckland New Zealand may be the first city to realize that it can be 10 times less expensive and 10 times faster to purchase and lease Tangos to commuters rather than spend tens of $billions of taxpayer funds on more freeways and other transportation infrastructure. Please read the discussion document written by Toa Greening, Auckland City Council member.http://www.projectmicrocar.co.nz/orClick Here to Download 15-page PDFhttp://www.commutercars.com/downloads/Project_Microcar_v1.0.pdfIt's kind of like this Tibetan story of two guys walking alon... more »
I heard yesterday that lanesplitting was in the news in California. I tried to find it online, but only found that the CHP was defining what is considered safe lanesplitting. Click here for: California Highway Patrol Web Page on LanesplittingI, of course, feel that it's only safe if done in a Tango, which is narrower than many motorcycles, and can react more quickly, as proved in the Consumer Reports emergency lane change test during the Automotive X-prize competition.Imagine the reduction in traffic and parking congestion if single-... more »
What a pleasant surprise to see the Tango in the opening scene of this trailer for the upcoming movie Robot & Frank. It looks like a great movie. I can't wait to see it. Actors Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon, Liv Tyler, and James Marsden star in the film.Click Here to see trailer.Robot and Frank debuts in August.In September Looper is due to come out, starring Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon Levitt, and Emily Blunt. It has 4 Tangos in it.
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Click here for videoNo need to sit in this frustrating mess: If you have a Tango you can enjoy the freedom of driving past all of these cars. That's infinitely more fun than sitting in traffic.Commuter Cars’ “Tango”—The Urban Driving Electric SupercarFilmed and edited by Enming Liu for Voice of America’s “Cultural Odyssey”For a YouTube version that skips the host's introduction, please click this link:YouTube Tango News StoryMP4 Version for iPhone / iPad can be downloaded from our web site using this link:MP4 Version for iPhone an... more »