Given the world’s environmental and energy problems, there’s little doubt that we need to rethink the fundamental concept of the daily commuter vehicle. The Tango T600 electric car, from Commuter Cars in Spokane, Wash., may be just the ticket—but putting this vehicle on your shopping list will take several leaps of faith. First, you’ll need to throw away all the expected conventions about the appropriate size of your daily car. The Tango is 102 inches long (8½ feet for the dimensionally challenged) and only 39 inches wide. In other words, it’s as tall as most conventional cars, not quite as long, but only half the size from side to side. That means driver in front and passenger in back—like a tandem bicycle.
The next leap is in driving range. The Tango’s battery packs provide race car levels of performance: zero to 60 in four seconds. But even when fully charged, the vehicle’s range of 40-100 miles (depending on type of battery) will limit your driving to a fairly modest two-way commute.
The biggest leap of faith is with Commuter Cars’ business model, which could put you on a waiting list for years. Instead of raising money ahead of time and starting production, the company is focusing exclusively on building one vehicle at a time, and using the profits to create research and production capacity for the next vehicles. They are currently filling the first 10 orders—seven of them for the $150,000 model, which uses lithium batteries (from A123 Systems), and three for the $108,000 model using lead acid batteries. All future cars are “depending on funding” and pre-orders are fully refundable. By the way, the purchase price is for a “mostly assembled” kit, rather than a finished vehicle.