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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.
It is so obvious that single-occupant drivers using side-by-side seating, thus taking up an entire lane on the freeway, is the precise source of traffic congestion, that any 3rd-grade kid can understand it immediately after looking at this graph. Why then are we wasting time and investing $billions in solutions that don't work, when the answer is so simple?Maybe it's hard to imagine half of all commuters buying narrow vehicles to get to work.Maybe it's not so hard to imagine that rather than spend taxpayer's $billions for building rail and wide... more »
Click Here for YouTube VideoNew video including:Burnout at dragstripFront wheels lifting off the ground proving 9,000+ ft-lbs of torque at the axle, so with 3:1 gearing from motors to axles, proves an astounding 3,000 ft-lbs of torque, 1,500 ft-lbs from each motor. The physics is rather simple. The Tango weighs 3,326 lbs, and the driver another 130 lbs, with a front-rear weight distribution of 43/57, it takes over 9,000 ft-lbs on an imaginary monster torque wrench attached to the rear axle to get the front wheels off the ground. This was only a... more »
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 »