The initial track testing phase of the Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize vehicles has begun at Michigan International Speedway. This video, courtesy of Consumer Reports, gives a good overview of what the competition is all about. Unfortunately, there isn’t all that much footage of cars testing, but some things are clear: the Aptera may be fuel efficient, but it doesn’t handle worth a damn and the Tango (the extremely narrow orange car in the video) really can back its claim of a four second zero to sixty time.
Speaking of the Tango, we’ll do a writeup on it in the near future. In the mean time, ponder this: the Tango is 39 inches wide, or 5 inches narrower than a Honda Gold Wing motorcycle. It’s 101 inches long, which makes it five inches shorter than a Smart car. It’s not light, due primarily to the weight of the batteries and the steel safety cage, tipping the scales at 3,150 pounds. The twin motors are good for 1,000 pound feet of torque (and no, that’s not a typo), which gets the clown-car-sized Tango from 0 to 60 in under 4 seconds. It’ll turn the quarter mile in 12 seconds, at 120 miles per hour. It’s single speed transmission is good for 135 miles per hour at 8,000 RPM, and it claims a range of over 150 miles on lithium ion batteries.
Like anything with wheels that goes fast, it comes at a price. The base Tango T600 kit (which requires 8 hours of assembly) is $108,000 and we’re not done spending yet. Next, the drivetrain adds $5,000 to the bill, followed by Li-Ion batteries at $53,000 (you can cheap out and go with lead acid batteries for $8,000, but that only gives you a range of about 40 miles). If I’m doing the math right and have everything that I need, the total comes to $166,000. That’s a lot of coin to pony up for an electric commuter car, even if it is the world’s fastest. Commuter Cars (Tango’s manufacturer) is working on a lower cost, mass production version dubbed the T200, but don’t expect it to have the same level of performance.